Our weekly look at the Ravens' matchup from a fantasy football perspective...
Whether the expected inclement weather messes with the game conditions or not, owners should consider Torrey Smith a borderline WR1 this week. Thank the Vikings brutal pass defense that automatic designation; Minnesota ranks 31st against fantasy wide receivers, having allowed at least one score to a WR in 11 straight games. Last week, Chicago's Alshon Jeffery destroyed the Vikings. Others have brutalized their secondary as well. Smith is a major deep threat who scored in three of his last four games and at least five receptions in four of his last five games.
As for Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown, even with this matchup and ideal conditions owners either starting the playoffs or trying to get in should look elsewhere. There simply isn't enough of a positive statistical history to trust.
The TE intrigue comes with the possible activation of Dennis Pitta. Owners can add this week, but don't consider using until Week 15 or 16.
For thoughts on Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, we turn to Rotoworld's Evan Silva: "Rice has cleared 3.5 yards per carry in 1-of-11 games and would likely need a goal-line plunge to pay dividends as a Week 14 start. He's been ineffective in both fantasy and real life all year. The Vikings rank 23rd versus the run, giving Rice appeal only as a low-upside flex play. ... Bernard Pierce has at least eight carries in four straight games, but is averaging under 3.0 YPC on the season and hasn't found pay dirt since his Week 3 start against Houston.
I wrote the following about Joe Flacco in this week's "Pickups" article for FFToolbox.com: "Baltimore hosts Minnesota, owners of the worst fantasy pass defense. That's good enough to boost Flacco from the low-end QB2 he's been all season to a potential starter in deep leagues. The Super Bowl MVP hasn't thrown more than one TDP in three weeks and has just one 20-point fantasy game over his last six contests. The presence of Torrey Smith combined with the Vikings leaky secondary provides owner's reason to think this week will be different." Again, monitor the weather when considering your final plan.
The defense and the kicker
Whether the Ravens are the projected number one, two or three fantasy defense this week, just know they're thought of very highly. There is the fact that the team with the fifth most sacks in the NFL faces an offensive line that allowed 11 over the last two games. There is Matt Cassel getting the start over the injured Christian Ponder, which isn't better or worse, just not exciting regardless. Then there is the unpredictable angle caused by poor weather. Yes, start the Ravens. ...Normally I'd avoid kickers playing in poor conditions. Considering the roll Justin Tucker is on - 27 straight field goals including nine over the last two games -, I'll make an exception. There will be safer options, but few with more upside thanks to the Ravens inability to find the end zone.
On the other side...
Can we just say "start Adrian Peterson" and move on. No? Well, that's how it is. There isn't a single other Viking I would consider starting considering the matchup and expected conditions. Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is a risk-reward speedster who can score from anywhere on the field, but doesn't receive enough targets most weeks to justify using as a WR3.
In addition to CSNwashington duties covering the Wizards, Hoyas and the college basketball scene, Ben writes about and ranks fantasy football players for FFToolbox.com, rated the most accurate site for the 2012 season.