A Falcons team that cleaned house after losing its first five games could head to Minneapolis with an energy boost under interim coach Raheem Morris. But the Vikings believe they’re headed in the right direction after nearly winning in Seattle, and with a home game before their bye week, they’ll enjoy a productive day on offense to get their second win of the season.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
With Cook out, Mattison gets first start
Dalvin Cook will miss Sunday’s game with the groin injury that caused him to leave early in Seattle, which means Alexander Mattison gets his first career start a week after running for a career-high 112 yards.
Falcons have new look
Atlanta, like the Vikings, has blown double-digit leads in a pair of losses early this season. And after a 23-16 loss to Carolina at home last week, the Falcons fired Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn, the GM-coach tandem that took them to the Super Bowl in the 2016 season. Morris, the former Buccaneers head coach, gets his first chance to lead the Falcons on Sunday.
Defense looks to finish
The Vikings defense played two masterful quarters last week against Russell Wilson as Minnesota built a 13-0 lead, but after surrendering three third-quarter touchdowns, the Vikings allowed a game-winning 94-yard drive in the final minute. The Falcons get Julio Jones back from a hamstring injury and can pair him with Calvin Ridley to test the Vikings secondary.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings offensive line vs. Falcons DT Grady Jarrett
Jarrett had a terrific day against Garrett Bradbury in the 2019 season opener, and dealing with his slippery inside pass rush will be a difficult task for the Vikings, who’ll unveil another new offensive line combination with Dru Samia out because of a wrist injury and rookie Ezra Cleveland potentially in line to start.
Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones
The Vikings will have tough matchups against both Jones and Ridley, who figures to line up against Jeff Gladney or Mike Hughes on the left side. But if Jones is ready to go, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan likely will look for ways to test Dantzler after the Seahawks beat him on the two biggest plays of their game-winning drive last week.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
118.3 The average quarterback’s passer rating against the Falcons this season — the highest in the NFL by 6.5 points, ahead of Jacksonville’s 111.8.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
Their makeshift offensive line helps Mattison and Mike Boone run well enough to keep the Vikings in favorable down-and-distance situations, and Kirk Cousins gets enough time to work against a Falcons secondary that should be susceptible to big plays from Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
THE FALCONS WILL WIN IF …
Ryan plays efficient, turnover-free football and finds ways to exploit the Vikings’ young secondary with Jones, Ridley and running back Todd Gurley. The Falcons will also need a key stop or two in a game that figures to have plenty of scoring, and could pull out a few surprises (especially on special teams) in Morris’ first game.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Falcons 26