Sunday’s NFL tilt between the Falcons and Vikings will be a battle between two struggling franchises. Atlanta has lost their first five games of the 2020 season, including last week’s 23-16 loss to conference rival Carolina. The Vikings are coming off a heartbreaking loss at Seattle but showed signs of breaking out of the offensive malaise that has plagued the team through the early part of the season.
The Falcons scored on their first possession against Carolina on Sunday but then failed to score on their other three first-half possessions. Matt Ryan and company got a first-row seat as Carolina scored on four consecutive possessions to take a 20-7 halftime lead. Ryan completed 21 passes for 226 yards but did not throw a touchdown in the game. Todd Gurley rushed for 121 yards and had a 35-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Calvin Ridley caught eight passes for 136 yards but failed to reach the end zone. Defensively, the Falcons allowed 437 yards to the Carolina offense that is without star Christian McCaffrey. That loss led to the dismissal of GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was named interim head coach.
Minnesota’s game on Sunday was a back and forth affair. The Vikings took a 13-0 halftime lead but allowed Seattle to score touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the third quarter. The Vikings regained the lead in the fourth quarter courtesy of two touchdowns. A failed two-point conversion came back to bite them as Russell Wilson guided the Seahawks on a 13 play, 94-yard game-winning drive. Wilson found DK Metcalf on fourth down for a six-yard touchdown pass to win the game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for two touchdowns while running back Alexander Mattison rushed for 112 yards on 20 carries. Adam Thielen hauled in nine of his 13 targets for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
This game looks to be an even matchup, and the spread reflects that as Minnesota is -3.5 as the home favorite. One has to wonder if Atlanta has forgotten how to win. After the late collapse against Dallas, Atlanta just has not been the same. Can they break into the win column, or will Minnesota protect its home field? The defenses should have plenty to say about that.
(Late injury reports and line movements are updated as of Saturday afternoon.)
There has been little movement on the line in this contest this week. Minnesota opened as a 3.5-point favorite and as of late Saturday afternoon, they can now be found as a four-point favorite at most sportsbooks. 66 percent of the bets are backing the Vikings giving the points in this contest.
The over/under has trended downwards slightly in this contest as well. After opening at 56, the total has ticked downward to 54 points for this one. A narrow majority, 51 percent, of the wagers on the total in this contest are of the mindset that this one ends up over the total.
Game-time Weather: It's a dome. That means 68 degrees and no winds as a factor.
Falcons Struggling to Put it All TogetherAtlanta’s passing offense ranks fourth in the NFL, as Matt Ryan is 63.2 percent of his passes for 1472 yards. Ryan has tossed seven touchdowns and three interceptions, but news broke this week that owner Arthur Blank is not sold on Ryan as the Falcons quarterback of the future. Calvin Ridley has been Ryan’s top target in the absence of star receiver Julio Jones (OUT), hauling in 29 of his 50 targets for 485 yards and four touchdowns. Todd Gurley is coming off his best game in the Atlanta offense and has now rushed for 375 yards and five touchdowns on 79 carries.
Atlanta’s offense has not been the problem, other than the inability to close out games with the run game. The Falcons defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.7 percent of their passes for 8.3 yards per pass and ten touchdowns. The Falcons have also allowed 4.5 yards per carry to their opponents. Atlanta’s defense has also struggled to get off the field, allowing first downs on 44% of third downs.
The Falcons may get a small bounce from the coaching change, although it remains unclear how Raheem Morris’s role has changed. If he retains his defensive play-calling duties, don’t expect much to change on the ball's defensive side.
OUT: DE John Cominsky, DT Marlon Davidson, DB Darqueze Dennard, S Jaylinn Hawkins, S Damontae Kazee, DE Takkarist McKinley
Questionable: DE Dante Fowler Jr., WR Russell Gage, DT Grady Jarrett, S Keanu Neal, LB Foyesade Oluokun, DB Kendall Sheffield
Vikings Look to Bounce BackThe Vikings came oh so close against a solid Seattle team on the road, falling in the waning moments of the game. The loss was more of Russell Wilson making plays than breakdowns on a defense that played well throughout most of the contest. Minnesota did seem to find some balance on offense, with Alexander Mattison going over the 100-yard rushing mark while Adam Thielen caught two touchdown passes. Minnesota’s offense had previously been in a funk, mainly due to quarterbackKirk Cousins’s miscues. Cousins has thrown seven interceptions to go along with his eight touchdowns while completing 64 percent of his passes with a 51.6 quarterback rating.
Running back Dalvin Cook is the centerpiece of the Vikings offense, having picked up 489 yards on 92 carries (7 touchdowns). Cook is not likely to play Sunday’s game due to a groin injury he suffered against Seattle. Backup Alexander Mattison filled in nicely on Sunday, gaining 112 yards on 20 carries against the Seahawks.Adam Thielencontinues to be Cousins’ top target, hauling in 29 catches for 364 yards and six touchdowns. Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson leads the team with 371 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Minnesota’s defense is built to play a field position style game. The Vikings are among the top third down defensive units in the league, allowing opponents to convert just 15/54 third-down conversions (27.7%). However, the defensive backfield has been suspect, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 72.2 percent of their passes while giving up 15 passing touchdowns. Starting cornerback Holton Hill and backup Kris Boyd are both out for Sunday’s game with injuries, adding to the defensive backfield’s issues.
OUT: LB Anthony Barr, CB Kris Boyd, RB Dalvin Cook, S Myles Dorn, LB Troy Dye, G Pat Elflein, LB Ben Gedeon, DE Danielle Hunter, WR K.J. Osborn, DT Michael Pierce, G Dru Samia, LB Cameron Smith, DE Kenny Willekes
Doubtful: CB Holton Hill
Questionable: DT Jaleel Johnson, T Oli Udoh
- Minnesota: Vikings are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games as a home favorite.
- Minnesota: Vikings are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite.
- Atlanta: Falcons are 4-0 ATS vs. a team with a losing record.
- Atlanta: Falcons are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games as a road underdog.