Scouting Report

Ravens Vs. Vikings

December 25, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Ravens run offense vs. Vikings run defense

Monday night marked the first time since Nov. 13 that running back Jamal

Lewis received more carries than Chester Taylor in a game when they were both active. Lewis responded with 105 yards, his second 100-yard game in three appearances. The Ravens are 4-1 this season when Lewis rushes for at least 60 yards. The Vikings were ranked last in run defense for three straight weeks earlier this season and now stand at No. 19. They didn't hold up well last Sunday, when they gave up 142 yards rushing to Pittsburgh. But Minnesota hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 10 straight games. Raonall Smith will remain the starter at strongside linebacker in place of injured Keith Newman.

Edge -- Vikings

Ravens pass offense vs. Vikings pass defense

Kyle Boller produced the best quarterback rating (136.8) in Ravens history on Monday. The previous two times he recorded a rating of more than 100, he had rough follow-up games, completing 45 percent of his throws for 303 yards passing and three interceptions. The Vikings have struggled in covering tight ends, which could mean a big game for Todd Heap (23 catches and four touchdowns in his past four games). Minnesota doesn't bring much consistent pressure - it ranks 21st in sacks - but it has the second-most interceptions (23). Free safety Darren Sharper has eight interceptions, running two back for touchdowns.

Edge -- Vikings

Vikings run offense vs. Ravens run defense

The Vikings have gone four games without a running back reaching 80 yards. Michael Bennett has taken over as the featured back the past three weeks but has failed to average more than 4 yards in any of those games. Minnesota right tackle Marcus Johnson and center Melvin Fowler both have sprained ankles, meaning Mike Rosenthal and Cory Withrow could find themselves back as starters. The Ravens could go back to their creative ways of stopping the run, using end Jarret Johnson instead of a second safety. The Ravens did allow a season-worst 5.6 yards a carry Monday to the Packers. Linebacker Bart Scott has made 13 tackles in each of his past three games.

Edge -- Ravens

Vikings pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Two of Minnesota's top three receivers are Ravens retreads, Travis Taylor and Marcus Robinson. Taylor, a former first-round draft pick, has 42 catches and two touchdowns, and Robinson has a 17-yard average per catch and five touchdowns. Quarterback Brad Johnson is 6-1 since replacing Daunte Culpepper as the starter, completing nearly 61 percent of his passes and averaging 173 yards passing yards. The Ravens, who have the seventh-ranked pass defense, have allowed one 300-yard passer and have held eight quarterbacks under 200 yards passing. Linebacker Adalius Thomas has scored in each of his past two home games, returning an interception and a quarterback fumble for touchdowns. Safety Ed Reed doesn't have an interception this season, but he seems to be rounding back to form.

Edge -- Ravens

Special teams

The Ravens could be without returner B.J. Sams, the NFL's third-leading punt returner. He is a game-time decision with a knee injury and would be replaced by rookie Mark Clayton. Minnesota has the second-worst punt coverage team in the league. Ravens kicker Matt Stover continues his torrid run, converting 24 of his past 25 field-goal attempts. The Vikings' Paul Edinger, who hit a game-winning, 56-yard field goal two months ago, is only 20-for-29 on the season, including 2-for-7 between 30 and 39 yards.

Edge -- Ravens

Intangibles

There's more incentive for the Vikings, who need to win their last two games to have a shot at making the playoffs. But the Ravens want to finish strong and have played their best at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens are 5-2 at home, holding opponents to 11.7 points a game. The Vikings have won their past three road games by a combined 11 points.

Edge -- Even

Prediction

Boller won't repeat his sterling performance, but he won't return to his erratic self, either. He just needs to manage the game and let the Ravens' defense take over. The Vikings are 0-4 against teams with defenses ranked in the top five, and the Ravens are No. 6.

Ravens -- 20-10

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