What to Expect from Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens Offense in Week 14

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What to Expect from Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens Offense in Week 14
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The Baltimore Ravens are 6-6 and currently hold the final playoff spot in the AFC.

The Baltimore Ravens are scheduled to face the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday in an important game for playoff positioning in the AFC. 

What looked to be a relatively benign matchup against the 3-8-1 Vikings could get interesting thanks to a little help from Mother Nature. The 1 p.m. ET kickoff has the following for a forecast, via the National Weather Service:

Snow before noon, then snow and sleet between noon and 3pm, then freezing rain and sleet after 3pm. High near 34. Northeast wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Little or no ice accumulation expected. New snow and sleet accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

The Baltimore Sun wanted to also remind readers earlier this week of another unstoppable force heading to Baltimore—Adrian Peterson:

Even with the inclement weather and the NFL's leading rusher in Peterson racking up 211 yards against the beat-up Chicago Bears, all seven staff members of the Baltimore Sun took the Ravens to win at home.

On a national level, the same story rings true. All seven experts over at CBS Sports and all 13 experts at ESPN picked Baltimore to improve to 7-6 and maintain control of the final wild-card spot in the AFC playoff picture.

But that's why they play the game. 

Let's take a look at what the Ravens offense will need to do to build on the team's Thanksgiving night win and avoid a potential trap against the dysfunctional Vikings.

Joe Flacco—Consistency

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Joe Flacco avoided turning the ball over last week, a key to victory against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14.

Joe Flacco's performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers was one of his best of this season. The Ravens signal-caller was 24-of-35 for 251 yards and one touchdown. Most importantly, he didn't turn the ball over, finishing with his second-best passer rating of the year at 98.6.

Although Flacco's turnover-free outing on Thanksgiving was comforting, it has not been the norm in 2013. He has thrown 14 interceptions, the most of his career, and we're only through 12 games this season.

The matchup against the Vikings should allow Flacco to pick apart the 30th-ranked passing defense, utilizing several targets, including recently activated tight end Dennis Pitta.

The biggest challenge for Flacco will likely be at both defensive end positions, with Brian Robison and Jared Allen each posting six sacks this season. The Ravens quarterback has been dropped behind the line of scrimmage 39 times, second only in the NFL to Ryan Tannehill at 45.

Ray Rice and the Offensive Line

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Ray Rice is having a disappointing season compared to his career success.

While the Vikings have the league-leading rusher in Peterson, the Ravens have what appears to be the shell of a formerly explosive Ray Rice.

Remember how Rice has never had a season with less than 4.2 yards per carry? Well, he's at 2.9 yards for 2013, ranked 31st in total rushing yards.

In 68 attempts, Bilal Powell of the New York Jets has more rushing yards than Rice, who has exactly 100 more attempts at 168.

Not all blame rests with Rice, as there deserves to be equal criticism of the offensive line and coordinator Jim Caldwell. Teammate Bernard Pierce is struggling with a similar slump this season, averaging 2.8 yards per carry after shining at 4.9 yards in 2012.

Just like Flacco has a good matchup in the passing game, the Vikings give the Ravens a great opportunity to break out of their rushing rut. Minnesota ranks 23rd in rushing defense, allowing 120.6 yards per game. 

Justin Tucker and the Streak

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Justin Tucker's last missed field goal came in Week 2 of this season.

Any time a game involves extreme weather conditions, the play of special teams can become a deciding factor. Rather than watching teams exchange touchdowns, there may be an elevated importance placed on each kicker's leg.

Few kickers have been better this season than Justin Tucker for the Ravens, although the Vikings have a pretty good player in Blair Walsh on their sidelines.

Tucker's streak of 27 straight field goals is the second longest in franchise history behind Matt Stover, who strung 36 successful attempts together. He booted five field goals in the win over the Steelers.

In Baltimore's six wins this season, four have been by single digits. While the Vikings may not be the most formidable opponent this week, Tucker will need to keep his focus given the elements.

If the Ravens can execute on offense and avoid some of the many pitfalls experienced earlier in the year, the Week 14 matchup against the Vikings should be painless.

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com, unless otherwise noted. 

Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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