Vikings-Ravens game plan

Both teams may want to establish the run, but the defenses have proven to be more vulnerable to the passing game.

VIKINGS

The Vikings are going to get a tough test against a Ravens team that has dropped its past two games to New England (27-21) and Cincinnati (17-14) after opening the season with three consecutive victories.

The Vikings have won their first five games by taking advantage of what opponents are giving them on offense. Of late, that has meant allowing Brett Favre to throw the ball because the focus remains on shutting down Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson hasn't rushed for 100 yards in the past four games and it might be difficult for him to end that streak on Sunday. The Ravens have been very good against the run and rank sixth in the NFL, giving up an average of 76 yards per game.

Baltimore, however, has struggled to stop the pass and is 26th in the league (238 yards per game). Given that Favre will be more than capable of exploiting that weakness the Ravens could be in trouble.

The Vikings, meanwhile, have surrendered 424 and 400 yards in their past two victories over the Packers and Rams, respectively. The Ravens are fifth in the NFL in total offense and are sixth in rushing and 10th in passing.

Ravens running back Ray Rice is averaging 72.8 yards per game and ranks seventh in the league in rushing. The Vikings have led the NFL in rushing defense the past three seasons but are ranked 10th (96 yards) this season.

RAVENS

The Ravens' defense has to find a way to slow down Adrian Peterson. The tackling by the linebackers needs to improve from last week, when the Ravens allowed Cedric Benson to rush for 120 yards (he broke 100 yards by the third quarter).

Offensively, the Ravens have to figure out a way to control the clock. They need to convert better on third downs against the Vikings, who have the seventh-best defense on third downs. In losing two straight games, the Ravens failed to win the time of possession battle.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who is second in the NFL in rushing, vs. Ravens MLB Ray Lewis, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. Peterson hasn't backed down from anyone in his two-plus NFL seasons and he likely won't start now even if Lewis is standing in his way. That's what could make this matchup so much fun to watch. Peterson and Lewis are going to try to get the best of each other on game day but there will be a mutual admiration between both that will run deep.

Vikings QB Brett Favre, who has thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions, vs. Ravens S Ed Reed, who has 45 interceptions in his career and two this season. Favre is the NFL's all-time leader in interceptions and, while he has made few mistakes this year, the Ravens will be trying to force him into making bad decisions in hopes that Reed can take advantage. Reed's veteran savvy from the safety spot is sure to make this an interesting test for Favre, who also is extremely savvy and is an expert at looking off the safeties.

More generally, the Ravens pass defense vs. Vikings QB Brett Favre. The last three Pro Bowl quarterbacks that have started against the Ravens (Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer) have averaged 321 yards passing. Favre's yards per attempt have increased the past three weeks, which could mean big plays against the Ravens.

Ravens coverage teams vs. Vikings special teams. Minnesota can dominate the field-position battle with kickoff returner Percy Harvin (31.2-yard average) and punt returner Jaymar Johnson (18.0). This is the game where the Ravens could miss Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Vikings DE Jared Allen. Oher is expected to make his second career start at left tackle because Jared Gaither is still struggling with a neck injury. Last Sunday, Oher held Cincinnati's Antwan Odom without a sack. The challenge will be tougher against Allen. Since 2004, Allen has the most sacks in the NFL with 64.



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