Ravens' improving offensive line faces Jared Allen
December will make or break the Ravens’ season. Winning their last four games would guarantee the Ravens (6-6) a playoff spot. Three more victories might be enough. But an 8-8 finish, or worse, would likely leave the Ravens packing their bags. The Vikings (3-8-1) will not be making the playoffs, but they are 2-1-1 over their last four games. They will come to M & T Bank Stadium with a puncher’s chance to pull off an upset. Here are three matchups to watch that will help determine the outcome.
1. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen vs. Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe
This is a matchup between two very athletic big men. Monroe has settled in nicely at left tackle, earning praise from quarterback Joe Flacco. “I’m as comfortable as I can be,” Flacco said. “I think he’s doing a great job. Anytime you can switch teams midseason, come in and pretty much get in there right away, I think that’s awesome. And I think he’s getting more and more comfortable.” Allen, who has 123 career sacks, will try to disrupt that comfort level Sunday. Monroe needs to keep Allen away from Flacco, because Allen’s blindside sacks are the kind of hits that can cause turnovers.
2. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson vs. Ravens defense
No matter how many the Ravens put in the box, Peterson is a threat to break a long run. The Ravens have two aggressive safeties in James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam who will sneak closer to the line of scrimmage. But they must be careful not to be too aggressive. Peterson loves to cut back against the grain, and he can change direction faster than the players trying to tackle him. “All 11 guys have to have their eyes on him when he has the ball, and we have to do a great job of surrounding him,” said Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. “The biggest thing is tackling him. He’ll break tackles. That’s why he has so many runs.” Peterson is an all-time great back, but the Ravens need to prevent him from having a great day. If the Ravens hold Peterson in check, they likely win.
3. Vikings secondary vs. Ravens wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones
The big play has returned to the Ravens’ offense. Expect Flacco to take some deep shots against the Vikings, whose secondary has issues. Alshon Jeffrey of the Bears had a huge day against the Vikings last weekend – 12 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown. Smith and Jones have the potential for a big day.