Scouting report for Ravens-Vikings game Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium

RAVENS PASSING GAME: After an uplifting performance against the Oakland Raiders, the Ravens’ passing game morphed right back into the punchless, mistake-prone attack it has been for most of the season in last week’s overtime loss to the Chicago Bears. Quarterback Joe Flacco has double the number of interceptions (eight) than touchdown passes (four) and his receivers struggle to create separation and make contested catches. The Ravens have scored on just 44.4 percent of their red-zone trips, which ranks 29th in the NFL.

VIKINGS PASSING GAME: With Sam Bradford ailing and Teddy Bridgewater just returning to practice, veteran Case Keenum is expected to start his fifth game this year. He’s been plenty serviceable, throwing five touchdown passes compared with just one interception. While former Maryland star Stefon Diggs, who is dealing with a groin injury, gets the attention, Adam Thielen is the only receiver in the NFL to have five or more catches in every game this season. The revamped Vikings offensive line has allowed only nine sacks.

EDGE: VIKINGS

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RAVENS RUNNING GAME: With Terrance West out last week, Alex Collins got most of the early-down carries and Buck Allen was primarily used on third downs and in the red zone. Both ran hard and well as the Ravens hit the 125-yard rushing mark for the fifth time in six games. They did that just twice all of last season. Collins leads NFL backs with an average of 6.4 yards per carry and 3.3 yards after initial contact. The Ravens need their running game to keep them out of third-and-longs against an attacking defense.

VIKINGS RUNNING GAME: The season-ending knee injury to rookie Dalvin Cook was a big hit to Minnesota, but Jerick McKinnon has thrived in his absence. Veteran Latavius Murray, who is still looking to regain some explosiveness after offseason ankle surgery, is technically the starter, but McKinnon has been Minnesota’s go-to guy. In the past two games, he has rushed 31 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns and has caught 11 balls for 81 yards and a score. He has lost two fumbles this year.

EDGE: EVEN

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RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: Nobody expected this to be a weakness, but the absences of Brandon Williams and Brent Urban have led to gaping holes in the middle. The Ravens have the 30th ranked run defense in the NFL. They’ve never finished worse than 23rd in a season. Williams’ return will help immensely, but the Ravens need more consistency from their young defensive ends and more discipline from their outside linebackers. C.J. Mosley leads the team with 55 tackles.

VIKINGS RUSH DEFENSE: Minnesota’s run defense has stifled the opposition, allowing only 78.7 rushing yards per game. That’s the third lowest total in the NFL. They’ve also surrendered just one rushing touchdown. The underrated Linval Joseph anchors the interior of the defensive line, lining up alongside Tom Johnson. The Vikings have extremely active linebackers, a group that is highlighted by leading tackler Eric Kendricks, and their safeties are also aggressive in run support.

EDGE: VIKINGS

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RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: There have been a few breakdowns and the pass rush has disappeared at times, but this group has mostly been as advertised. The Ravens are holding the opposition to 189.5 passing yards per game, the fifth lowest total in the league. They have the league’s fourth best third-down defense, are tied for the second most interceptions and are tied for seventh in sacks. The Ravens have given up six touchdowns to tight ends and Minnesota has a good one in Kyle Rudolph.

VIKINGS PASS DEFENSE: There is star power within this group. Defensive end Everson Griffen, who will likely see a lot of Ronnie Stanley, has a sack in six straight games and has seven sacks for the season. Ball-hawking safety Harrison Smith already has three interceptions, one off the league lead, and 1 ½ sacks. Shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes is playing as well as anybody in the league at his position. Minnesota’s third-down defense is allowing a 25 percent conversion rate, the best in the NFL.

EDGE: RAVENS

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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Ravens played a near-perfect game on special teams against the Bears as they had two return scores, Justin Tucker connected on all three of his field-goal attempts and Sam Koch averaged 55 yards per punt. Bobby Rainey’s 96-yard kick return for a touchdown likely solidifies him in that role going forward. Michael Campanaro is third in the league in punt return average. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said this week that the Ravens have the best special teams in the league.

VIKINGS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Vikings haven’t gotten a whole lot from Marcus Sherels and their punt return game, but McKinnon is proving to be a dangerous kick returner. Minnesota’s average of 25.5 yards on kickoff returns is the fifth best in the league. The Vikings coverage units have been among the stingiest in the league. The Vikings continue to have some problems at kicker as Kai Forbath has missed a 39-yard field goal and two extra-point attempts this year.

EDGE: RAVENS

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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The awful performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London aside, the Ravens have probably played their best two all-around games on the road in Cincinnati and Oakland. That has to give them some confidence even while their offense continues to flounder. The struggles of Flacco and company have put a ton of pressure on the defense and forced it to be on the field too long. The Ravens have caused the second most turnovers, but they’ve committed the third most.

VIKINGS INTANGIBLES: Mike Zimmer’s team has barely had its starting quarterback on the field and lost its starting running back in Week 4. Yet, with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers possibly out for the season and the Detroit Lions struggling, the Vikings are suddenly the favorites in the NFC North. This is the Vikings’ fourth home game in the past five weeks. Zimmer’s defenses in Cincinnati gave Flacco and the Ravens myriad problems, so there’s familiarity there.

EDGE: VIKINGS

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PREDICTION: This is a winnable game for the Ravens. The Vikings won’t overwhelm offensively and their defense is very good, but not impenetrable. However, U.S. Bank Stadium is a tough place to play and it’s hard to have confidence that the Ravens will be able to consistently move the ball against a quality defense in a hostile environment. The NFL is a one-week league, but that the Ravens lost at home to a Bears team Minnesota handled on the road a week earlier doesn’t bode well. The Ravens likely need the Vikings to make a lot of mistakes and they haven’t done much of that this year.

Vikings, 20-6

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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