Week 1 of the NFL regular season is finally here, and we’ve got the Minnesota Vikings hosting the Atlanta Falcons in this one. Both teams are coming off disappointing 2018 campaigns, so both sides could really use a win here to get things started off on the right foot and show everybody that they’re back in business. Oddsmakers have the Vikings as a four-point favorite for this NFC showdown.
The Falcons made the Super Bowl just two seasons ago, but they’ve fallen off hard since then. They made the divisional round of the playoffs the following year, then missed the postseason entirely in 2018. The Falcons fired both of their coordinators after the year, so they’re starting fresh with a new staff. They’ll be under immense pressure to win, and if they don’t get back to the playoffs head coach Dan Quinn could be the next one fired.
The Vikings made the league’s biggest splash in free agency last year, bringing in Kirk Cousins on a three-year deal. Cousins failed to live up to expectations and routinely fell flat on his face in big moments. Minnesota retooled the offensive line this offseason, and they certainly have enough talent to make a run if they can put it all together.
Pivotal Year For Falcons
The Falcons have fallen off hard the past couple of years. In 2016 they were the toast of the league, as Matt Ryan won MVP and they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Of course, they then blew a 28-3 lead in the big game. Then Kyle Shanahan left. Shanahan was the architect of that elite offense, and the unit declined sharply when he left to take the head coaching job with the 49ers. In 2017 they weren’t as good but still made the playoffs, and then last season they missed the postseason entirely. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was fired at the end of last year, and the defensive coordinator was fired as well. This is a make or break year for head coach Dan Quinn, and he’ll be on the hot seat if they get out to a slow start.
The Falcons should have better injury luck than they did last year, but they also didn’t make too many clear upgrades this offseason and lost running back Devonta Freeman. Atlanta had one of the worst pass-rushes in the league last season, and I don’t see it being much better in 2019. That means most of the pressure will once again fall on Ryan and the offense. Julio Jones is the focal point of the offense, and there’s a weird situation developing with him. Jones hasn’t been holding out but he has been looking for a new contract, and just this week he suddenly indicated he might not play on Sunday if he doesn’t have a new deal. That’s something you’ll need to monitor.
The Falcons have signed WR Julio Jones to a new contract and GM Thomas Dimitroff discusses this.
“There are a handful of elite receivers and Julio is certainly a part of that group, not only because of his production on the field but his leadership off the field and in the locker room,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Julio has been a cornerstone of our organization for several years and we have always intended for that to continue for years to come.”
Can Cousins Get Them There?
The Vikings made the biggest splash of last offseason when they went out and signed Kirk Cousins to a three-year, fully guaranteed contract. Minnesota had just made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game the year before, and the belief was that they were only a competent quarterback away from legit Super Bowl contention. Unfortunately, the first year of the Cousins era didn’t go as planned, and they missed the playoffs. Cousins once again wasn’t his best in big games, but it wasn’t all his fault. He got terrible protection from the offensive line, and the Vikings had no running game to speak of. This is a huge year for Cousins, and it’s put up or shut uptime. Minnesota fired their offensive coordinator midway through last season, and it’s now Kevin Stefanski’s job full-time.
The Vikings made upgrading the offensive line a priority, and I like the additions that they made. Cousins should have a lot more time to throw in 2019, and the ground game should be a lot better now that Dalvin Cook had a full year to recover from his ACL tear. Everything is set up nicely for Cousins, and I think he should have a bounce-back year. The Vikings have arguably the best receiving duo in the league in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and a very solid tight end in Kyle Rudolph. On defense they still have a strong pass-rush, a great corner in Xavier Rhodes, and one of the best safeties in the league in Harrison Smith.
- 36-16-1 ATS in their last 53 home games
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in Week 1
- 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games in September
- 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games overall
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games
- 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 vs. Vikings