Safe to say that both the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons have left a bit to be desired so far this season. Leading into the 2020 season, many experts had the Minnesota Vikings at or near the top of their division rather than bringing up the rear at 1-4. You can’t quite say the same for the Falcons, but nobody saw an 0-5 start out of the gates and a top draft pick on the horizon.
Still, the deck seems to be stacked today for the Minnesota Vikings to strut their way to their second win of the season and bring a slightly better tasting record into the bye next weekend.
Their record may not reflect the same level of optimism but the Vikings have played their opponents tough this year and could easily have flipped this 1-4 record upside down to be 4-1 on the season. With the exception of their week one game against the Packers, Minnesota had a chance to win in each subsequent matchup and did so against some really solid football teams.
After laying an egg in their Week 2 matchup against the Colts, this Vikings offense has been clicking pretty well. Rolling to the point of averaging 29 points per game, Kirk Cousins has found his groove. It’s been a consistent 250 yards and two touchdowns from the Vikings QB while the run game has balanced things out averaging 196 yards per game giving Minnesota the one-two punch needed to take any team in the league down to the wire.
Enter the Atlanta Falcons, the league’s 30th ranked defense and the 32.2 points per game they’ve been allowing this season and this week six matchup should simply be the icing on the cake of a rough start to the 2020 season for the Vikings. On paper, it should play out with Kirk playing solid, Mattison running roughshod and the Vikings knocking the Falcons to 0-6 on the year.
But, but, but…but here’s the thing.
I mentioned that the Falcons defense was ranked 30th in the league this season, yielding 32.2 points per game. The Minnesota Vikings defense hasn’t been much better. In fact, they come in just one spot higher at 29th in the league and have allowed 30.4 points per game to their opponents. Minnesota’s young defensive backs have been put through the ringer and the injury bug has hit the Vikings with Anthony Barr out for the year, Danielle Hunter’s status for the season very much in question and now Holton Hill is doubtful with a foot injury.
On top of that, despite their 0-5 record, the Atlanta Falcons have some things going for them this weekend. On the year, Atlanta is averaging 27 points per game on the road this season, about 5 more than at home. Running back Todd Gurley is rumbling again and does decent work between the tackles where Minnesota is weakest. Last weekend against Carolina the so called washed up running back rattled off 121 yards and a score. And then Matt Ryan is looking to get star wide receiver Julio Jones back again this week. Pairing him up with Calvin Ridley on the other side against the inexperienced Vikings CBs is setting up for a dangerous afternoon in the Vikings secondary.
Minnesota is far from a flawless team. Many of their games this season will be measured by which team makes the fewest mistakes and plays the cleanest game. If the Vikings can dot their i’s and cross their t’s, they should win. If they fail to clean up the trash and make mistakes themselves, Atlanta is good enough to beat them.
Don’t get too haughty just because the opponent is winless. As we’ve seen in the past, this team is not above blowing sure-fire wins at home…see the Buffalo game in 2018 or any Chicago game in the past decade.
The Minnesota Vikings remain a flawed football team, precisely the kind of team that could lose to a winless team if they’re not careful…