Vikings - Ravens: Gameday Inside Slant

Week 16 in the NFL sees the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Minnesota Vikings at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. We take a quick look at what to look for on each side of the football and what each team needs to do to win.

When the Ravens have the football

Expect a renewed emphasis on a suddenly explosive passing game. Unless it's a one-week aberration, the Ravens will be eager to find out if Kyle Boller can perform with the verve and accuracy he demonstrated against Green Bay. The Ravens discovered an offensive balance a week ago, and will look to build on that momentum. They would be wise not to get too carried away, though, considering that the Packers blitzed far too much and didn't have the appropriate personnel to stay with tight end Todd Heap or receiver Derrick Mason.

Key matchup

TE Todd Heap vs. FS Darren Sharper

Heap just had his career-best game, and Sharper has returned three interceptions for touchdowns among his eight interceptions.

When the Vikings have the football

The Vikings have to create a semblance of a running game after Michael Bennett slumped to 43 yards in a loss to Pittsburgh. He gained 149 total yards in wins over Detroit and St. Louis, but shouldn't be a major factor against a stingy Ravens front seven. Brad Johnson will look to manufacture explosive plays with receivers Marcus Robinson and Koren Robinson (no relation). He often dumps the football off to blockish tight end Jermaine Wiggins as a security option.

Key matchup

CB Chris McAlister vs. WR Travis Taylor

McAlister and Taylor were teammates for four years and remain friends. McAlister leads Baltimore with 19 pass deflections, and Taylor has 42 receptions.

How the Ravens can win
1. Drop extra defenders into zones. Brad Johnson is a precise passer, but has absolutely no running threat to complement him.
2. Exercise caution in the air. The Vikings have 23 interceptions, the second-most in the NFL and safety Darren Sharper is particularly dangerous.
3. Pound the football. The Vikings allow 114.2 rushing yards per game, including 142 on 39 carries against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.

How the Vikings can win
1. Pressure Kyle Boller into mistakes. The Vikings will pay attention to last week's breakthrough, but they won't forget that he remains a young man prone to interceptions.
2. Rely on Brad Johnson's sound decisions. More often than not, he'll get the football in the right person's hands at the right time.
3. Isolate Marcus Robinson outside. The one-time Raven has five touchdowns and averages 17 yards a catch. He's not Randy Moss, but he's a legit deep threat.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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