In eager anticipation of the 2013 NFL season, Baltimore Sun blogger and reporter Matt Vensel will take a daily look at one of the 13 opponents on the Ravens' regular-season schedule. Today is the Minnesota Vikings.
In early December, 10 days after they play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving night, the Ravens will host the Minnesota Vikings at M&T Bank Stadium. That extra rest will come in handy when they try to drag down Adrian Peterson, the star running back for the Vikings and the NFL's reigning Most Valuable Player. The NFL's best back will test the Ravens' run defense, but by Week 14, their new defenders should be on the same page.
Recapping 2012: Led by Peterson, who rushed for a ridiculous 2,097 yards last season, the Vikings were one of the biggest surprises of 2012. The Vikings, who ranked 14th in scoring offense and 15th in points against, won their final four games of the regular season -- including wins over the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers -- to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs. However, quarterback Christian Ponder sat out their only playoff game, and with Joe Webb starting in his place, they had no chance in a 24-10 loss to the Packers.
Cha-cha-changes: The Vikings kicked off their offseason by trading disgruntled wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round pick. They signed veteran wide-out Greg Jennings away from the Packers to replace him and used one of their three first-round picks on Tennessee wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson. They used the others on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. This offseason, the Vikings also parted ways with veteran corner Antoine Winfield and outspoken but effective punter Chris Kluwe.
The skinny: Some say that Minnesota's run to the playoffs was a fluke, but they must forget how well the Vikings played against some good teams down the stretch. Despite a frustratingly helpless end in the playoffs, the Vikings hope to build on that late-season success. Having Peterson around to hand the ball to will be a good start. The defense, which ranked fifth in the NFL in sacks in 2012, should be solid again, too. But as is the case with every team with a young quarterback, the Vikings will need theirs to pick up his play to make it back to the postseason.
Recent history: The Ravens last played the Vikings four years ago in what is remembered as the Steve Hauschka game. In that 33-31 loss, quarterback Joe Flacco went throw-for-throw with Brett Favre, but Hauschka missed what could have been the game-tying field goal. The all-time series is tied at two games apiece.
Degree of difficulty: We'll say this game is a five out of 10. If the Ravens can limit the damage done by Peterson, I like their chances against Ponder. And on paper, the Ravens' run defense looks like it should be much improved after a disappointing 2012 season. But if reality shreds that paper and the Ravens struggle to contain Peterson, this one could get difficult in a hurry.