Baltimore Ravens (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, October 18, 2009, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Ravens +2.5/Vikings -2.5
Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens were both 3-0. Now, the Vikings are still undefeated at 5-0 but the Ravens have lost two straight to the Patriots and Bengals.
There is one major difference between the 2009 Vikings and the 2008 Vikings - a 40-year old twice retired quarterback named Brett Favre. He has 1,060 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions this season. His most impressive performances came at home. Favre put on a show against his old team, the Packers, and he threw a game-winning heave to Greg Lewis in the final seconds against the 49ers.
Adrian Peterson is still the key to the Vikings offense. He has 481 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Favre has several targets to throw to, including Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Peterson, Chester Taylor and Visanthe Shiancoe. Taylor leads in receptions with 21, Harvin and Rice both have 233 yards, and Shiancoe leads in touchdowns with three.
The Ravens are usually known for their defense, but this year it’s their offense that has been more impressive. Second-year QB Joe Flacco has 1,289 passing yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Ray Rice and Willie McGahee have dominated on the ground with a combined 563 yards and six touchdowns. Rice is getting the majority of the carries (63-38), but McGahee is getting the touchdowns (5-1). Both running backs are averaging more than five yards per carry.
The Ravens had the best defense against the run before Sunday, when Bengals running back Cedric Benson shredded them for 120 yards. Now, Baltimore has the No. 5 run defense, allowing 76 yards per game. The Vikings are allowing 96 rushing yards per game, but they haven’t yet allowed a rushing touchdown.
But looking at the running backs the Ravens had faced before Benson and the Bengals, none of them were great runners. The Chiefs, Browns, Chargers and Patriots all have fairly weak running games. All four teams rank in the bottom half of the NFL this season. Therefore, maybe the Ravens run defense was only that dominant because of the competition. Now that the Bengals exposed them a bit, Peterson could do the same for Minnesota on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have faced the likes of Kevin Smith, Frank Gore, Ryan Grant and Steven Jackson. The Vikings proved that they could win a game without dominating with the run when Favre led the way against the Packers. Flacco has put up good statistics for the Ravens, but Rice and McGahee have carried them.
If the Ravens are going to score some points, they will have to stop Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who has 6.5 sacks this season and has been an absolute animal in the last two games against the Packers and Rams.
In the Ravens’ loss to the Patriots, they had a chance to win at the end. But a dropped pass by a wide open Mark Clayton on fourth down ended their hopes. Against the Bengals, the Ravens had a 17-14 lead in the final minute. But Carson Palmer and the Bengals drove down field, and Palmer threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell.
The Ravens have played well in both road games this season, against two tough opponents - the Chargers and Patriots. They won 31-26 in San Diego and lost 27-21 to the Patriots.
The Ravens are 14-5 ATS in their last 19 games. They are also 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games. The Vikings have gone over in four of their five games this season. They are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games. The Ravens have lost their last eight games after losing two straight games, including an 0-4 mark on the road.
Ryno’s Pick: The Vikings have defeated the 49ers and Packers, two very good teams, in their two home games this season. They’ve scored at least 27 points in every game this season. The Ravens defense isn’t the same as it used to be, and the Bengals ran all over them on Sunday. With the best running back in the NFL, expect the Vikings to control the game on offense. The Vikings are at home as only 2.5-point favorites, even though they have won every game this season by more than that, and they’re facing a team coming off two straight losses. The Vikings have one of the top run defenses in the league, so it’s unlikely that Rice and McGahee will dominate in this game. The Vikings have the better quarterback, running back and defense, plus they’re at home. The over is a good play, but the Vikings are the best play. Take the Vikings -2.5.