3TFO: Vikings @ Ravens, Week 14
This week’s Minnesota-Baltimore matchup pits against each other a purple-clad pair sitting on the edges of distinctly different races.
The Ravens, at 6-6, currently hold the final AFC Wild Card spot and still hope to track down the division-leading Bengals in the season’s last month. For the Vikings, pride aside, positioning for a Top 5 pick come May has to be creeping into thoughts and their Week 12 tie with Green Bay has them a half game ‘out’ of the No. 2 spot as things stand.
A wintery day of football lies ahead and here are a few factors to keep an eye on:
The Dumervil Factor
Things have worked out well for Elvis Dumervil and the Ravens this year, especially considering the circumstances that helped unite them in the first place. With Paul Kruger bolting in free agency, Baltimore found themselves in the market for an edge rusher opposite Terrell Suggs and, thanks to a famously faulty fax, Dumervil didn’t do a deal with Denver, leaving him available and at a more affordable rate than Kruger collected from Cleveland. Not only did the move work out financially, but the Ravens have seen Dumervil carry the league’s top Pass Rushing Productivity mark for 3-4 OLBs to this point in the season as his 52 total pressures on 264 pass rush snaps has produced a 15.7 PRP.
Set to counter his efforts this week for the Vikings is Phil Loadholt, PFF’s fifth-rated right tackle overall. Coming off a pair of solid seasons, Loadholt has graded positively across the board in 2013, though he’s been marked relatively better in the run game. His Pass Blocking Efficiency score of 94.3 (four sacks, four hits, and 23 hurries on 425 pass blocking snaps) is 32nd among tackles. Viking QBs have enough problems without having to worry about Dumervil coming off the edge — it would go a long way toward helping their peace of mind if Loadholt can find himself up tot he task.
Given the current state of the Minnesota quarterback corps, even more weight has been heaped on the shoulders of the team’s all-world halfback, Adrian Peterson. With a strong right side of the line (center John Sullivan, right guard Brandon Fusco, and right tackle Loadholt) and with a pair of worthy lead-blocking fullbacks (Jerome Felton and Rhett Ellison) paving the way, Peterson has earned our second-highest rushing grade on the season. That’s not to say he isn’t doing work himself – his third-ranked Yards after Contact per Attempt (3.07) and second-best total for forced missed tackles (65) show that he is – but the Vikings know what works and send him to the right on nearly two-thirds of his runs.
Working as part of the crew waiting for him on the defense’s left, along with the aforementioned Dumervil, will be nose tackle Haloti Ngata, left end Arthur Jones and linebacker Daryl Smith. Both Ngata and Jones grade out among the Top 15 at their positions in run defense, Jones posting the 11th-best Run Stop Percentage for 3-4 DEs. Smith, on the other hand, has not enjoyed a strong year against the run and is currently 45th among middle/inside linebackers in that department grade-wise and his Run Stop Percentage of 4.9 has him above only Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk.
Vanishing Run Game
After spending the past two seasons ranked among the Top 10 runners in the league, Ray Rice’s fall this year has been drastic, to say the least. He’s gone from the No. 7 spot overall (and No. 1 in the passing game) in 2012 to the bottom of the heap – 52nd of 52 qualifying running backs – this season. Forcing just 10 missed tackles on over 200 touches and generating a league-worst average of just 1.36 yards after contact, he’s simply not been effective with the ball in hand and his backfield mate, Bernard Pierce, has not been much better. It’s all added up to produce the league’s worst (and only sub 3.0) yards per attempt number at 2.9.
With Minnesota feeling a bit better about their lineup at linebacker – second-year man Audie Cole has done well to take over the middle linebacker spot and Erin Henderson returns this week to shift back the weak side – the Baltimore run game could be in danger of being negated entirely.
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