It's time to start calling your shots, ladies and gentlemen. Courtesy of our friends at The Crowd's Line, we have our prediction widget for this week so you can take your opportunity to predict the score of this weekend's contest between the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons.
Both of these teams are coming off of pretty bad losses. We know what happened at TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday, but the Falcons had a bit of a meltdown of their own. Hosting the Indianapolis Colts, the Falcons had a 21-7 lead midway through the third quarter at home, and proceeded to give up 17 unanswered points to end the game as Indy went home with a 24-21 victory.
Since getting off to a 5-0 start, the Falcons have dropped four of five, and their offense has struggled to score, averaging just 17.6 points/game in those five games. It's a bad sign, then, that they're going to be going into this one without star running back Devonta Freeman. Yes, they still have the incredible Julio Jones to throw the ball to, and Roddy White is still a big part of things, too. However, Matt Ryan has had his issues with the turnover over the past five games, throwing six interceptions in that stretch. . .including three last week in the loss to Indianapolis. The Vikings haven't done much to generate turnovers on defense this season, but if they can rediscover the pass rush that sort of disappeared last week, it appears they can at least frazzle Ryan a bit and force him to make bad throws that can get the Falcons' offense off the field.
When the Vikings have the ball, it might be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson coming off of his performance against Green Bay last week. The Falcons currently sport the NFL's best defense against the run in terms of yardage allowed/game. Strangely, though, only two teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns so far than the Falcons' 11. So, if the offense can get into the red zone, it would appear that Peterson should have the ability to finish off drives. The Vikings' offense might be able to do some damage through the air in this one. . .Atlanta's pass rush is tied for the fewest quarterback sacks in the NFL so far this season. That means that, hopefully, after getting humiliated last weekend, the Minnesota offensive line can give Teddy Bridgewater some time to find open receivers and move the ball down the field.
With a victory in this one, the Vikings can go back into first place in the NFC North by a full game (thank you, Chicago). They would also put themselves a full two games ahead of the rest of the NFC in any wild card situation, so this is a big one for the purple. The Falcons are a good football team, but they've struggled a lot recently against teams that aren't terribly good. The Vikings are a step up in competition, in my opinion, from the teams that the Falcons have taken on during their rough five-game stretch, and I think we're going to see that on display on Sunday afternoon.
Give me Vikings 24, Falcons 21 to move the Vikings' record to 8-3 and, once again, put themselves firmly in the driver's seat in the NFC North.
How about you, folks? Who do you have in this one?