The Ravens open up as 6 point favorites this weekend as they play host to the Vikings. Baltimore is coming off a BYE and holding on to 1st place in the AFC North after the Bengals lost last week. Meanwhile, the Vikings sit at 3-4 on the season and are coming off a tough home loss to a Cooper Rush-led Cowboys team last weekend. Will Minnesota be able to straighten things out, or will Baltimore continue rolling?
The CapWize Simulation model has 50 total points being scored in this game, with the Ravens winning outright by a final score of 30.67 – 19.33. With the model aligning exactly with the point total posted by Vegas, we see little value here in betting an over/under. Should you lay a side with the points in this game?
Baltimore is coming into this game off a BYE, allowing them to get their makeshift backfield settled over the last week or so. The Ravens are 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards/game this season, averaging just under 150/game. They have a plethora of veteran depth, with names like Devonta Freeman and Le’veon Bell in line to split touches with QB lamar Jackson. Latavius Murray has been out all week, still nursing an ankle injury, and at the time of writing is not expected to play. Lamar leads the team in rushing with 68 yds/game, however the Ravens aren’t afraid to use any of their RBs or even a WR to run the ball.
They have elite speed on the outside, led by WR Hollywood Brown. Brown comes into this game with 37 catches for 566 yards and 6 TDs on the season. TE Mark Andrews has also evolved into a premier TE in the league and is tied with Brown with 37 receptions on the year. With a BYE week to prepare more, we anticipate a healthy dose of 1st rd pick WR Rashod Bateman. Bateman has logged 7 receptions on 12 targets through the two games he’s played this season.
The Ravens have leaned on their defensive front this season, which has stood out more than anticipated and played a huge factor in their early success. Baltimore ranks 4th in rush yards allowed per game, which will play a big factor in limiting Vikings RB Dalvin Cook. On the other side, their secondary has been abysmal. The Ravens also rank dead last in receiving yards allowed/game, giving up 296 yards/game so far. While this spells disaster considering premier WR talent like Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, this number might be inflated a bit. Baltimore has faced the Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers and Bengals thus far, who all rank within the top 12 passing offenses. Minnesota sits at 8thin that list, so it will certainly be a big test. Will Baltimore be able to slow down the Vikings offense and cover 6 points?
As for Minnesota, they have been one of the most puzzling teams in the league this season. They have stars throughout their offense and are #7 overall in total offense, however only 18th in ppg scored. They have had shootouts (34-33 Loss to ARI in week 2) and stalemate games (14-7 loss to CLE in week 4) and have struggled to maintain any sort of identity on the season. Most recently, they are coming off a home loss to the Cowboys and only managed 16 points while backup QB Cooper Rush led Dallas to a big road win. QB Kirk Cousins has been underwhelming this year. While showing some gun-slinging ability, often times he’s looked like he’s playing safe rather than to win the games. The Vikings have had six games decided by one possession this season, with 4 of them being losses. Kirk ranks 17th in QBR this year, which is a bit surprising coming off arguably his best season of his career in 2021.
Dalvin Cook comes into this game with 98 touches on the season for 444 yards and only 2 rushing TDs. The lack of scores for Cook is again telling of the Vikings inability to put up points, and ranking 13th in rushing yards on the season is not where we expected Cook to be at this point in the season. Cook has been dealing with an ankle injury, but Minnesota will need to figure a way through it soon.
Without being able to rely on the running attack, you’d think the WR duo of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson would equate to a lot more offense than it has shown in 2021. Minnesota leads the NFL in most plays run under center, and have fallen to 29th in the league in play-action plays. Jefferson has 563 yards on 43 receptions and 3 TDs this season. Similarly, Thielen has posted a stat line of 471 yards on 43 receptions and 6 receiving TDs. It is baffling how all 3 studs on this offense have been performing, yet the Vikings sit at 3-4 and are in danger of dropping 4 games behind Green Bay in the division. As of now, the Vikings hold the 8 seed on the NFC and will need to get going if they intend to make a playoff run. Last week, they kept Zeke in check with only 50 yards on 16 carries, however allowed Rush to throw all over them. Amari Cooper went for 122 yards on 8 rec and a TD, while Rush tallied 325 total yards passing.
Cousins – 296 yards passing, 27.5/38, 2.78 TDs
Jackson – 273 yards passing, 24.33/36.29, 2.42 TDs, 28 yards rushing, 5.74 att
Cook – 65.48 yards, 16.71 att, 0.46 TD, 20 yards rec, 2.35 rec, 3.13 tgts
Freeman – 20.03 yards, 4.87 att, 15.22 yds rec, 1.5 rec
Jefferson – 78.85 yards, 5.86 rec, 8.7 tgts, 0.75 TD
Thielen – 70.43 yards, 6.08 rec, 875 tgts, 0.68 TD
Brown -62.2 yds, 4.93 rec, 8 tgts, 0.7 TD
Bateman – 40.76 yards, 3.5 rec, 5.5 tgts
Andrews – 60.7 yds, 5.16 rec, 7.73 tgt
We will be taking the Ravens here to cover the 6 point spread. As pointed out earlier, the model projects the Ravens to win outright by over 11 points, and for good reason. The Vikings haven’t had much success converting drives into points this season and may be in trouble early if Baltimore pushes the pace. While the defensive secondary for Baltimore may have their hands full with Thielen/Jefferson, the extra BYE week to prepare for this game should not be overlooked. The playcalling of Klint Kubiak has been a disaster for the Vikings, and I don’t expect enough points out of them to cover. Baltimore ranks 4th in rushing yds allowed/game this season and can take their chances in the secondary if they force Minnesota to be one-dimensional. Take the Ravens and the points at home this weekend to come out and showcase their high-powered offense against a Vikings team that can’t seem to find their own offensive identity.