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Minnesota Vikings vs. Baltimore Ravens: Storylines, prediction for the interconference clash

The Minnesota Vikings vs. Baltimore Ravens game carries a ton of intrigue and should be one of the better contests during the early slate.

The Minnesota Vikings vs. Baltimore Ravens game isn’t short for playoff implications or storylines. One team is fighting to remain in the hunt, and the other is fighting for the top seed in the AFC. One quarterback is looking to compete for another MVP, while the other is blasted for being a checkdown Charlie.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Baltimore Ravens storylines

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense have made a massive flip, throwing the ball far more often and completing more passes farther downfield than many believed was possible. For that, and his late-game heroics, Jackson has made himself an MVP candidate once again. As for Minnesota, could this be the end for head coach Mike Zimmer?

Lamar Jackson for MVP?

Pro Football Network’s OVM metric does not seek to say how good or bad a player is in the grand scheme. It’s built to provide context to how much of a team’s offensive production that player is responsible for. So, a QB with a high OVM in a high-flying offense should be seen as the more valuable player.

Jackson ranks fourth in OVM, and with Russell Wilson sitting at the top, he’s effectively third, behind just Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow.

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Jackson’s throwing more often than ever and completing passes farther downfield than ever before, further proving his ability as a passer. Against the Colts, he was responsible for one of the best singular performances I’ve ever seen.

If the Ravens compete for the top seed and Jackson continues to put up nutty passing numbers, he could end up with his second MVP just after his 25th birthday.

The Vikings’ offense is struggling

No offense with Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, and Dalvin Cook should struggle. However, they rank just 21st in EPA/play and face a Ravens team that boasts an aggressive man-coverage defense.

There is a lot of blame to go around. This is Klint Kubiak’s first season calling plays. The offensive game plans haven’t wowed, but that is partially due to Zimmer’s run-first nature. Kirk Cousins isn’t playing like a $31 million quarterback, either. But the biggest issue is their offensive line.

Cousins is getting the ball out fast, and he’s not taking unnecessary hits because of it. However, despite his fast time to throw, he’s still being pressured consistently. I believe that lack of trust has caused the decline in offensive production.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if there is a fix in 2021. The Vikings are averaging 23.3 points per game on the season, but only 19 in their last four contests. With the Ravens, Chargers, and Packers up next, things could get ugly.

Mike Zimmer has earned the right to see this through

There is a chance this team is 3-7 as they head to San Francisco in Week 12. Quite frankly, that’s unacceptable for a team with a defense ranking in the top 10 in EPA/play that has this much offensive talent.

Zimmer has kept the offensive game plan in the family, to everybody’s detriment. Unless they flip the switch over the next few weeks, I think this 2021 season could be the death blow for Zimmer’s coaching career in Minnesota.

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Nevertheless, he’s earned the right in the Vikings’ organization to see this through. So, even if it’s unbearable to watch over the next few weeks, the success Zimmer’s found in an NFC North with Aaron Rodgers has been impressive.

He’s won 67 of 119 games as an NFL head coach, but his inability to find a consistently explosive offense will be his downfall.

Minnesota vs. Baltimore betting line and game prediction

The Vikings vs. Ravens game is a 6-point line favoring the Ravens. That’s the perfect number, in my opinion, because I think enough separates these teams to see some space in the score.

However, the Vikings have only played in one game that finished as more than a one-score game, which was a win against the Seahawks (with Russell Wilson). The Ravens have blown a few teams out, but they’ve also played down to opponents like the Lions and Colts. So, this game should stay close and competitive. This could easily be the best game of the early slate.

Vikings vs. Ravens Prediction: Ravens 27, Vikings 24

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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