Vikings - Ravens: 5 keys to the game

1. Match the Vikings' intensity. When the Baltimore Ravens (5-9) face off with Minnesota (8-6) tonight at M&T Bank Stadium, it will be interesting to see whether the Ravens can remain competitive and fired-up throughout the game considering the Vikings are fighting for a playoff spot and there's nothing tangible at stake for Baltimore.

The Ravens have won five of their last six home games, and Minnesota is coming off a deflating, 18-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Intangibles are critically important, particularly late in the season. The Ravens' primary interconnected motivations are finishing strong to build for next season, job security -- especially for coach Brian Billick and quarterback Kyle Boller -- along with pride. It's another nationally televised contest, and the Ravens have thrived in prime-time including last week's 48-3 shellacking of the Green Bay Packers. They also were extremely feisty in a narrow loss to the Steelers on Monday night earlier this season and stayed with the one-loss Indianapolis Colts for a half to open the season.

2. Keep it up, Boller. One week after posting a career and franchise-best 136.8 and a 70.5 completion percentage with three touchdowns, the Ravens and Boller are curious to see if he can come close to duplicating that showing. History shows that he probably won't. The past two times Boller surpassed a 100 passer rating, he has failed to complete half of his throws in the next game, turning the ball over twice on each occasion.

3. Cut down line splits. The Vikings' overpowering interior defensive line tandem of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams (no relation) can shoot through gaps in a hurry. It's critical that center Mike Flynn and guards Edwin Mulitalo, Brian Rimpf and Jason Brown maintain a unified, bunched-up front against these athletic bull rushers.

4. Cover the kickoff, and kick it deeper. Koren Robinson has to be licking his chops after watching kicker Matt Stover cut a blocker's legs out from under him for a personal foul that prevented Ahmad Carroll from running one short-legged boot all the way back last week.

5. Get the football to Todd Heap. The tight end has caught a career-high 69 passes, including 14 receptions for 175 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games.

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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