Falcons to Be without Top Playmaker vs. Vikings

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are 3.5-point underdogs this weekend in a date with the Atlanta Falcons on tap at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Falcons to Be without Top Playmaker vs. Vikings

Minnesota will start rookie quarterback Jaren Hall after Kirk Cousins was injured in Week 8 at Lambeau Field, ending his season with an Achilles tear. Three Vikings players are questionable heading into the event, including wide receiver Jalen Nailor, linebacker Brian Asamoah, and guard Chris Reed.

And on Atlanta’s side, one of its top playmakers will miss Week 9 — wide receiver Drake London.

Falcons to Be without
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London was ruled on Friday with a groin injury and will miss his first career game after playing all 17 as a rookie in 2022 and eight to date this season.

Without London, the Falcons will lean on this WR corps:

  • Van Jefferson
  • Mack Hollins
  • KhaDarel Hodge
  • Scotty Miller

Chris Blair, Damiere Byrd, and Frank Darby are also available at wide receiver via practice squad promotion. The Falcons often lean heavily on two tight ends, and Kyle Pitts plus Jonnu Smith should encounter an increased target load.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports.

As a rookie, London tabulated 72 receptions for 866 yards and 4 touchdowns on 117 targets. This season, he’s on a similar pace, banking 37 catches for 438 yards and 2 scores on 57 targets. Many Falcons fans expected more targets in year No. 2 for London, but the Falcons curiously don’t utilize pass-catching playmakers like London and Pitts as a normal NFL team might.

Arthur Smith’s team has a 4-4 record — like the Vikings — through eight games, on top of the NFC South by a whisker. If it topples the Vikings at home on Sunday, Atlanta’s current 49.6% playoff probability will soar close to 60%, per ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

The Vikings have a 51.1% postseason probability per the same metric entering Week 9.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports.

London was the first wide receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft, chosen eighth overall by Atlanta 18 months ago, and he has been since outproduced by WR peers like Garrett Wilson (New York Jets) and Chris Olave (New Orleans Saints). But Wilson and Olave have actually been allotted a normal workload from their respective quarterbacks through 1.5 seasons.

Atlanta employs Bijan Robinson, too, and his production could spike in London’s absence. The aforementioned Smith loves to run the ball, and Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson should see plenty of attention against the Vikings.

Falcons Provide Soft
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Smith’s offense ranks 24th per DVOA as of November 3rd, while the Vikings defense checks in at No. 10 via the same parameter. But the Falcons will trot former Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke this weekend after Desmond Ridder was benched, at least for a game, a few days ago.

Minnesota has beaten Atlanta four times in five tries since 2014.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.