When: Noon Sunday, M&T Bank Stadium
TV (radio): Ch. 9 (100.3-FM)
Line: Ravens by 6
The Vikings' defensive line will be without the two players they planned to build around this season, Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce. That's a bad recipe against Lamar Jackson. Minnesota's offense will be more effective than it was last week and keep things close, but the Ravens' run game will be too much.
THREE STORY LINES
Vikings begin road swing in need of a win
After losing to the Cowboys on Sunday night, the Vikings head into a stretch in which they'll play four of their next five on the road, with their only home game coming Nov. 21 against the division-leading Packers. The Vikings will play on opposite coasts the next two weekends, traveling to Los Angeles to face the Chargers after Sunday's game against the Ravens. At 3-4, they'll have to win away from U.S. Bank Stadium to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Pierce will miss game against former team
Pierce, the nose tackle, will miss his fourth straight game with an elbow injury; he did not practice Thursday or Friday after getting limited work Wednesday, and his absence this week could be critical against Jackson and the Ravens' third-ranked run game. The 2019 league MVP is averaging 6.3 yards per run this season, directing a power run game that NFL teams rarely see; Pierce practiced against it for two years, but the Vikings won't have him Sunday.
Bradbury's absence puts Cole at center
The Vikings traded for former Cardinals lineman Mason Cole this spring, and with Garrett Bradbury on the COVID-19 list, Cole is expected to start in his place on Sunday. The Ravens will be without nose tackle Brandon Williams, but Cole will have to jell quickly with the Vikings' offensive line and with quarterback Kirk Cousins against a Baltimore defense that's been one of the more blitz-heavy groups in the league.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings' front seven vs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
Baltimore's run game is one of the league's most distinctive attacks, with co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson comparing it more to the option-based schemes run by some of the service academy teams than the offenses commonly seen in the NFL. Jackson was the league MVP in 2019, and he'll line up against a Vikings defense missing Pierce and Hunter. If the Vikings can't keep Jackson from running effectively and getting time to test their corners downfield, it could be a long day.
Vikings RT Brian O'Neill vs. Ravens DE Calais Campbell
O'Neill got some of his first NFL snaps against Campbell back in 2018, when he stepped in for Rashod Hill during a joint practice with the Jaguars while Campbell was still there. He's become one of the game's highest-paid right tackles since then, but O'Neill winning his matchup against Campbell will still be an important key for the Vikings on Sunday as they try to protect Cousins more effectively than they did against the Cowboys.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
10.8: Average air yards of Jackson's passes this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That's the highest rate in the league; Cousins is third-lowest at 6.6.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
They can contain Jackson despite the fact they're missing three of their most important defenders (Hunter, Pierce and Patrick Peterson), get their running game going against the Ravens' defense and protect Cousins against Baltimore's blitzes effectively enough for him to get the ball to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen more frequently than he could a week ago.
THE RAVENS WILL WIN IF …
Jackson can shake off a pair of uneven performances against the Chargers and Bengals, while the Ravens' defense comes back from a bye week in better shape than it was during a 41-17 loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago. Baltimore's third-ranked red zone attack could also find success finishing drives against a Vikings defense that's struggled to get stops as of late.
Prediction: Ravens 30, Vikings 26