Ravens run offense vs. Vikings run defense: The Vikings haven't been as formidable as in recent years. They rank 10th against the run, giving up 100 yards to a team twice this season. The biggest challenge is running up the middle against Minnesota tackles Pat and Kevin Williams. But this might be irrelevant because the Ravens have ignored the run the past two weeks. The Ravens are fourth in yards-per-carry (4.9) but rank 12th in carries (136). Edge: EVEN

Ravens pass offense vs. Vikings pass defense: In his past eight away games, Joe Flacco has produced a 96.6 quarterback rating, the NFL's sixth-best road mark. Only three quarterbacks have thrown for more touchdowns this season than Flacco, who has nine. The key matchup is rookie Michael Oher (who is likely replacing injured Jared Gaither at left tackle) against Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen (6 1/2 sacks, four tackles for losses and three forced fumbles). Flacco has shown pocket awareness, getting sacked just seven times. The Ravens might have to slow Allen by double-teaming him with Todd Heap or running quick-hitting routes. The Vikings, who are 18th against the pass, gave up 384 passing yards to the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers and a combined 297 yards to the St. Louis Rams' Kyle Boller and Marc Bulger. Antoine Winfield, one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, could shadow Derrick Mason. Edge: RAVENS

Vikings run offense vs. Ravens run defense: This should be a hard-hitting matchup between Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. With Lewis in the lineup, the Ravens have allowed only 11 running backs to gain more than 100 yards the past 11 years. Peterson has recorded 18 100-yard games in just 29 career starts. The Ravens allowed their first 100-yard rusher in 40 games the previous week. Before that lapse, the Ravens were the NFL's top run defense, holding their first four opponents to fewer than 86 yards on the ground. Running backs have eclipsed 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games against the Ravens only once since 1999. Edge: EVEN

Vikings pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: The past three Pro Bowl quarterbacks who started against the Ravens this season (Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer) averaged 321 passing yards. That could spell trouble against Brett Favre. He ranks in the top five in passer rating (104.1), completion percentage (.691), touchdown passes (nine) and fewest interceptions (two). The Ravens, who have been hurt by big wide receivers, could face matchup problems with Sidney Rice (6 feet 4, 202 pounds). Rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle), who is questionable, might be replaced by Artis Hicks, a converted guard. Free safety Ed Reed has forced three turnovers in the past three games. Edge: VIKINGS

Special teams: Minnesota is the only team that ranks in the top three in both punt and kickoff returns. But the Ravens could catch a break because Vikings kickoff returner Darius Reynaud (hamstring) is doubtful and punt returner Percy Harvin (shoulder) is considered a game-time decision. The Ravens got a boost with rookie Lardarius Webb taking over kickoff returns, but Chris Carr is still struggling on punt returns. The Ravens have the edge in punting (Sam Koch over Minnesota's Chris Kluwe), but not in field-goal kicking (the Vikings' Ryan Longwell is the NFL's fifth-most accurate kicker). Edge: EVEN

Intangibles: The Vikings are one of five undefeated teams remaining in the NFL, but their five wins have come against teams with a combined record of 7-17 (.292). Minnesota has a 1 1/2 -game lead in the NFC North, so a win over an AFC team isn't a pressing need. The Ravens, on the other hand, have lost two straight gut-wrenching games and have a bye looming. This is a more critical game for the Ravens. Plus, the Ravens have won their past three games against NFC teams by an average margin of 18 points. Edge: RAVENS

Prediction: The Ravens might have fewer Pro Bowl players than Minnesota, but they have a stronger sense of urgency. Between evenly matched teams, motivation - and a late field goal - prove to be the difference. RAVENS, 27-24 When the Ravens have the ball

Ravens offense

WR: 89 Clayton

LT: 74 Oher

LG: 66 Grubbs

C: 77 Birk

RG: 65 Chester

RT: 73 Yanda

TE: 86 Heap

QB: 5 Flacco

FB: 33 L. McClain

RB: 27 Rice

WR: 85 Mason

Vikings defense

DE: 91 Edwards

DT: 94 P. Williams

DT: 93 K. Williams

DE: 69 Allen

OLB: 52 Greenway

ILB: 56 Henderson

OLB: 51 Lieber

LCB: 26 Winfield

SS: 25 Johnson

FS: 20 Williams

RCB: 23 Griffin

When the Vikings have the ball

Vikings offense

WR: 87 Berrian

LT: 74 McKinnie

LG: 76 Hutchinson

C: 65 Sullivan

RG: 64 Herrera

RT: 71 Loadholt or 62 Cook

TE: 81 Shiancoe

QB: 4 Favre

FB: 38 Tahi

RB: 28 Peterson

WR: 18 Rice

Ravens defense

DT: 92 Ngata

NT: 97 Gregg

DE: 90 Pryce

OLB: 55 Suggs

ILB: 56 Gooden

ILB: 52 Lewis

OLB: 95 Johnson

LCB: 31 F. Washington

SS: 26 Landry

FS: 20 Reed

RCB: 24 Foxworth

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