One man’s prediction: After an all-around ugly outing against the Packers, the Vikings look to rediscover their identity in Atlanta. The Falcons are one of the NFL’s best at stopping the run and have a game-breaking receiver who must be accounted for every play. But they have lost four of their past five and are a team the Vikings need to beat, even on the road. If the Vikings do, it will be their first four-game road winning streak since 1998.
Strength vs. strength
This was supposed to be a matchup between two of the NFL’s leading rushers, but the Falcons have ruled out Devonta Freeman because of a concussion. Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back after an unproductive game against the Packers. The Falcons are ranked first in the league in run defense, but even if they slow Peterson down, the Vikings must stick with the run. That’s who they are.
Give it away now
The Falcons have a top-10 offense and a top-10 defense, so why the heck have they been losing games recently? Turnovers. The Falcons have coughed up the football a dozen times in their past five games. Six were fumbles and six were Matt Ryan picks, so hey, at least they are displaying balance. The Vikings have just three takeaways in their past six games, but they should be able to rattle Ryan into at least one Sunday.
One down, one up
The Vikings hoped safety Harrison Smith and defensive end Everson Griffen, arguably their best two defenders, would be able to suit up, but only one will play. Smith injured his left knee against the Packers and was declared out Saturday. Griffen has been dealing with hip and shoulder injuries, but he is expected to play. Antone Exum likely will replace Smith.
Player to watch
Julio Jones, Falcons receiver
Opponents know that the ball is going to be chucked up to Jones often, but most have not had an answer for the 6-foot-3 speedster. A threat at all three levels, Jones leads the NFL with both 89 catches and 1,189 receiving yards while also scoring six touchdowns. Xavier Rhodes has been vulnerable this season, but the Vikings might have no choice but to shadow Jones with Rhodes, their only cornerback with size.