RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: So shaky earlier this season, the Ravens' special teams have factored prominently in their last two wins. Kicker Justin Tucker has played the starring role, making nine field goals over the past two games and converting on 27 straight attempts. Kick returner Jacoby Jones has re-emerged as a big-play threat, gaining 269 return yards over the past two weeks. With Sam Koch punting better and the coverage teams playing solid, the Ravens' special teams have been clicking on all cylinders.
VIKINGS SPECIAL TEAMS: Outside Peterson, rookie return man Cordarrelle Patterson is Minnesota's most dangerous player. The speedster leads the NFL with 1,008 kickoff return yards and two touchdowns. Expect Justin Tucker to try and avoid kicking to him as much as possible. CornerbackMarcus Sherels also has a punt return touchdown for Minnesota. In two seasons, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh is 57-of-63 on field-goal attempts and he's made 12 from 50 yards or more.
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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens enter the last quarter of the regular season in pretty good position. They hold the sixth and final playoff spot and they are playing their best football. They are relatively healthy, well rested and they're at the one place where they've been at their best. The Ravens are 5-1 this season at M&T Bank Stadium. Under coach John Harbaugh, they are 10-1 at home against NFC foes. With their final three games against first-place teams, they know they can't slip up here.
VIKINGS INTANGIBLES: The Vikings have been a disaster on the road this season, going 0-5-1 and giving up an average of 28 points per contest. Their overall defense ranks 30th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (407.6) and last in points allowed per game (30.5). On offense, they make too many mistakes, exhibited by their minus nine turnover ratio. Effort, however, hasn't been a question. Leslie Frazier's team has lost three games by four points or less.
PREDICTION: When the Ravens began their stretch of three consecutive home games, they knew that they had to win all three to get in good playoff position. All that's now standing in their way is a 3-8-1 team with a backup quarterback and a struggling defense. That's not to say that this will be a cakewalk. They've given several good teams problems and Peterson can win a game on his own. The Ravens also haven't played consistently enough to expect them to overwhelm anybody. However, they should get a relatively comfortable win with their defense turning up the head and Flacco throwing a couple of long touchdown passes.