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Opposition Analysis and Research, Week 13: Atlanta Edition

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A statistical look at Minnesota’s opponent on Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons

Minnesota Vikings v Atlanta Falcons
Adrian Peterson was a big factor in Minnesota’s 2015 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Who will step up this week?
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Well that Detroit game went rather well, didn’t it? All things considered, I’d say the Vikings did exactly what they had to in order to get a win against a divisional foe fighting for their playoff lives. Things get no easier this week as the Vikings face their third consecutive potential playoff opponent in the Atlanta Falcons. As expected before the season, this three-game stretch of away games is a buzzsaw for the Vikings and how they come out of it will decide where the Vikings will be seeded when they reach the playoffs (assuming they don’t collapse and go 0-5). Let’s take our weekly deep dive into our upcoming opponent and the matchup the Atlanta Falcons present for the Vikings.

Schedule

The Falcons have done fairly well this season and are in contention for a playoff spot. If they secure a spot, they will be one of the few teams to overcome the Super Bowl loss hangover and return to the playoffs the very next season. The Falcons have had a fairly strange schedule this season, with their first three games coming against NFC North teams, followed by four straight games against AFC East opponents, then their first conference game (loss against the Panthers), games against the Cowboys and Seahawks, then us, and finish the season with four straight games against NFC South opponents.

Whatever their scheduling quirks may do to their schedule, the Falcons have sandwiched two three-game winning streaks around a stretch of the season where they lost four of five games, including three straight against the AFC East.

Like the Tweet says, the Falcons are just 3-2 at home so far this season and have yet to face a defense of Minnesota’s caliber on their home turf.

Most recent game

Last week saw the Falcons absolutely take it to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (not that that’s much of a feat considering how bad Tampa has been this season). In their 34-20 victory over the hapless Bucs, the Falcons got 253 yards and two touchdowns out of megastar wide receiver Julio Jones. That yardage was actually enough to knock Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen from second to third in the NFL in receiving yards. Matt Ryan and Mohamed Sanu combined for 368 passing yards and the two passing touchdowns to Julio. The Falcons also got 97 yards on 19 carries (5.1 YPC) and two rushing touchdowns from Tevin Coleman, their current lead back as they wait for Devonta Freeman to return from a concussion he suffered in Week 10 against the Cowboys.

Defensively, the Falcons held Ryan Fitzpatrick to 283 yards despite playing fairly passive defensively after going up 27-6 on the Bucs less than five minutes into the third quarter. Two Peyton Barber touchdown runs made things closer in the late third and early fourth quarter, but the Falcons shut their offense down from there and scored a late touchdown to go ahead by two scores to avoid the massive upset. Possibly the biggest thing that happened defensively was the Falcons losing top corner Desmond Trufant to a concussion. The Falcoholic seems pretty pessimistic about his ability to be ready for Sunday’s game, which would be a big boost to Minnesota’s passing offense. But I’ll cover that potential loss later. Let’s take a look at what Minnesota’s defense will be tasked to handle on Sunday.

Offense

Ground game

Atlanta had one of the most effective and devastating ground games in the NFL last season. They effectively utilized both Freeman and Coleman and ended up having the 12th-most carries, fifth-most rushing yards, third-most rushing touchdowns, and had the fifth-best yards per carry.

This year’s ground game isn’t quite as effective as Freeman has been dogged with a number of injuries. Freeman’s dealt with the concussion that’s caused him to miss the last two games, a knee injury, a shoulder stinger, and suffered a separate concussion in a preseason practice session. Freeman ran for just eight yards the only time he faced the Vikings, so whether he is healthy and effective will obviously be a big part of Atlanta’s gameplan.

Let’s take a look at how the Falcons are doing with and without him.

Atlanta’s rushing game

Player Attempts (Rank) Yards (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rushing touchdowns (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Player Attempts (Rank) Yards (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rushing touchdowns (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Tevin Coleman 122 (25) 539 (19) 4.4 (t-13) 5 (t-5) 32 (20) -2.3% (18)
Devonta Freeman 116 (27) 515 (23) 4.4 (t-13) 5 (t-5) 122 (10) 15.7% (5)
Terron Ward 22 (t-104) 89 (103) 4.0 (DNQ) 0 (t-105) -4 (DNQ) -13.7% (DNQ)
Matt Ryan 20 (t-111) 92 (102) 4.6 (DNQ) 0 (t-105) 26 (17) 28.6% (13)

So it’s not the strongest running game we’ve faced this season, but it’s not terribly far off from it. The Falcons’ two-headed running attack has combined for 238 rushing attempts, 1054 yards, and 10 rushing touchdowns. For comparison, Minnesota’s two-headed attack has combined for 236 attempts, 886 yards and eight touchdowns, and if you toss in what Dalvin Cook did before he got hurt, Minnesota’s rushed 310 times for 1240 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. So basically the Falcons’ rushing attack is better than our two-headed monster and just a little worse than our three-headed attack.

This year’s Falcons squad is 19th in attempts (290), 10th in yards (1285), seventh in rushing touchdowns (10) and sixth in yards per attempt (4.4). So the Vikings will have their work cut out for them with this backfield, though their job will obviously be a little easier if Freeman misses his third consecutive game with that concussion. Atlanta’s ground game doesn’t have a single rushing touchdown longer than 15 yards, so the Vikings should key in on Atlanta’s ground game when they reach the red zone because both backs are clearly very effective from in close.

The Falcons have rushed for 100 yards in eight of their 11 games this season and have lost just one of the three games where they were held under 100 yards. A run game is, therefore, not entirely necessary to keep Atlanta in the game.

Football Outsiders: Atlanta’s OL

Atlanta's Offensive Line Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed percentage (Rank) 2nd level yards (Rank) Open field yards (Rank) ALY: Left End (Rank) ALY: Left tackle (Rank) ALY: Mid/Guard (Rank) ALY: Right tackle (Rank) ALY: Right end (Rank)
Atlanta's Offensive Line Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed percentage (Rank) 2nd level yards (Rank) Open field yards (Rank) ALY: Left End (Rank) ALY: Left tackle (Rank) ALY: Mid/Guard (Rank) ALY: Right tackle (Rank) ALY: Right end (Rank)
2017 4.36 (8) 71% (5) 20% (13) 1.27 (7) 1.00 (7) 4.67 (6) 5.36 (3) 4.77 (5) 3.61 (19) 2.45 (30)

Well it’s about darn time the Vikings face a team that actually has some quality in its ability to efficiently run the ball. The last few teams the Vikings have faced, the Rams included, have sometimes struggled to run the ball in certain situations. Not so with the Falcons. They’re top-15 in every offensive line stat before the adjusted line yards, usually landing within the top 10. This is a team that knows it’s ability in the run game and is capable of shoving that run game right down your throat whenever it wants to.

As for the adjusted line yards, it’s a pretty interesting look. Atlanta’s a top-10 team when you run it anywhere that ISN’T the right side of their line, but when they try and run towards and outside right tackle Ryan Schraeder, they are mediocre to downright bad at getting holes open for their backs. That’ll be something to monitor in Sunday’s game, how often they test the right side of the line and Danielle Hunter and how often they trust their best run blockers and run at Everson and Linval.

Atlanta’s offensive line has also ranked in the top 10 of pass blocking, scoring ninth with an adjusted sack rate of 5.4% and having allowed 16 sacks on the season.

Atlanta’s passing game

Player Targets Receptions Yards Receiving touchdowns Catch % DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank) DPI
Player Targets Receptions Yards Receiving touchdowns Catch % DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank) DPI
Julio Jones 101 66 1039 3 65.30% 258 (4) 19% (9) 2/34
Mohamed Sanu 61 45 452 4 73.80% 133 (19) 14.4% (14) 1/16
Austin Hooper 48 36 417 3 75% 60 (10) 11.3% (13) 0
Taylor Gabriel 41 28 326 1 68.30% 25 (DNQ) -4.8% (DNQ) 1/9
Tevin Coleman 27 18 218 2 66.70% 78 (8) 37.7% (4) 0
Devonta Freeman 24 19 137 0 79.20% 24 (24) 3.4% (18) 0
Justin Hardy 21 15 146 2 71.40% 48 (DNQ) 15.6% (DNQ) 1/6

It’s Julio’s world and everybody else in Atlanta is just living in it. He’s the focus of their passing game and he’s averaging 9.2 targets a game, which is basically in line with last year’s passing attack. Of course, the rest of Atlanta’s passing attack is also an issue. Mohamed Sanu leads the Falcons in receiving touchdowns and Austin Hooper has gotten more involved in their passing game this season while already matching his touchdown receptions from last season.

One of the biggest things that has changed from 2016’s passing game to this season is that both Freeman and Coleman are both averaging a reception and a half less than last season. Basically the Falcons pushed their participation in the passing game onto Hooper, so the Vikings will have even more to account for when they take the field against Atlanta’s passing game.

Much like the Lions and the Rams, the Falcons have eight different receivers that have received double-digit targets this season so there’s a lot of variety in their passing game. As for their passing game overall, the Falcons have won both the game with their most passing yards (Tampa Bay) and the game where they had their fewest passing yards (Seattle), so, again like the Lions and Rams, their passing game working or not working doesn’t always mean they will lose.

Now let’s take a look at the quarterback spreading the ball around to these receivers, shall we?

Quarterback

So obviously Matt Ryan isn’t quite matching his 2016 season, but he’s still having a pretty good season among normal humans.

Matt Ryan

Player Comp./Att. (Comp %) Yards TD/INT Y/A (Rank) AY/A (Rank) Quarterback rating (Rank) QBR (rank) NY/A (Rank) ANY/A (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Player Comp./Att. (Comp %) Yards TD/INT Y/A (Rank) AY/A (Rank) Quarterback rating (Rank) QBR (rank) NY/A (Rank) ANY/A (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Matt Ryan 244/361 (67.6%) 2884 16/8 8.0 (6) 7.9 (9) 97.2 (10) 67.3 (5) 7.35 (4) 7.24 (8) 790 (6) 20.9% (7)

For the second straight week, the Vikings will face a quarterback in the top ten in basically every statistical category. While Ryan has come back to Earth in the slightly less potent Steve Sarkisian offensive scheme compared to last year’s godlike model under Shanahan, he and his friends on the offense are still playing well. Ryan’s interception numbers are up, which is about the only bad thing going on with his play, and even those are due more to his wide receivers having butterfingers at inopportune times.

As for Ryan vs. the Vikings, he’s gone 2-2 in his four-game career against us, though he’s currently on a two-game losing streak. He’s completing 67% of his passes against the Vikings and has been sacked just seven times in those four games. Both of his four picks against us have come in the two games since Mike Zimmer came on as head coach, so the Vikings making Ryan flustered will be huge for their ability to win this game.

Matt Ryan is a better quarterback at home, like most quarterbacks. His completion percentage is five points higher at home, his quarterback rating is nearly ten points higher, his yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt are both more than .7 higher at home than on the road. Much like Stafford, keeping him unsettled in front of his home crowd will be paramount for a Vikings win.

Offensive Efficiency

PFR Efficiency: Atlanta Falcons

Organization Offensive scoring % (Rank) Average starting field position (Rank) Average time of drive (Rank) Avg. # of plays per drive (Rank) Avg. # of yards per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Organization Offensive scoring % (Rank) Average starting field position (Rank) Average time of drive (Rank) Avg. # of plays per drive (Rank) Avg. # of yards per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Pro Football Reference 42.9% (5) Own 25.2 (32) 2:53 (3) 6.22 (2) 36.6 (3) 2.25 (5)

Football Outsiders Efficiency: Atlanta Falcons

Organization Yards per drive (Rank) Points per drive (Rank) Avg. starting field position (Rank) Plays per drive (Rank) TOP per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate (Rank) Touchdowns per drive (Rank) Field goals per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs per drive (Rank) Average field position after kickoff (Rank) Pts. per red zone drive (Rank) TDs per red zone drive (Rank) Avg. lead at the beginning of drives (Rank)
Organization Yards per drive (Rank) Points per drive (Rank) Avg. starting field position (Rank) Plays per drive (Rank) TOP per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate (Rank) Touchdowns per drive (Rank) Field goals per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs per drive (Rank) Average field position after kickoff (Rank) Pts. per red zone drive (Rank) TDs per red zone drive (Rank) Avg. lead at the beginning of drives (Rank)
Football Outsiders 36.75 (2) 2.38 (5) 25.23 (32) 6.47 (2) 3:02 (2) .744 (2) .255 (4) .198 (7) .311 (1) .189 (6) 24.19 (27) 4.86 (16) .586 (13) 1.75 (8)

This is a death machine of efficiency the Vikings will be taking on this week. The Falcons’ offense is an inexorable river that just keeps on moving. They don’t punt much, keep on moving the ball and they hang onto the ball as well as anyone, from a time of possession standpoint. They will kick a field goal as readily as score a touchdown.

The Falcons have a few small issues, though one of the “problem areas” is less of an issue than one might think. They are only average at scoring in general inside the red zone and score touchdowns just slightly above average. And they have the worst starting field position in the NFL, though that does benefit the Falcons in that they have managed to extend their drives and overcome their starting field position.

This game will feature a true clash-of-the-titans matchup, as the Falcons are the best team in the NFL at converting third downs (48.1%) and the Vikings are best in the NFL at preventing third-down conversions. Atlanta is also 12th in red zone touchdown percentage, scoring touchdowns on 56.8% of their red zone excursions and the Vikings are 2nd-best in the NFL at preventing red zone scores by their opponents (allowing touchdowns on 40% of red zone drives).

This is yet another good offense the Vikings will have to shut down and it has a lot of options to go to. Now let’s see what Minnesota’s offense will be dealing with when it takes the field on Sunday.

Defense

Atlanta’s run defense, ‘16 & ‘17

Year Attempts against (Rank) Rushing yards against (Rank) Rushing touchdowns against (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rush defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted line yards allowed (Rank) Power success against (Rank) Stuffed (Rank) 2nd Level Yards (Rank) Open Field Yards (Rank)
Year Attempts against (Rank) Rushing yards against (Rank) Rushing touchdowns against (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rush defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted line yards allowed (Rank) Power success against (Rank) Stuffed (Rank) 2nd Level Yards (Rank) Open Field Yards (Rank)
2016 370 (28) 1672 (16) 15 (t-12) 4.5 (t-25) 1.7% (28) 4.47 (25) 63% (16) 19% (18) 1.29 (26) .64 (13)
2017 283 (23) 1253 (20) 8 (t-16) 4.4 (t-25) 6.6% (32) 4.28 (21) 72% (27) 19% (22) 1.16 (21) .51 (5)

Ohhhhhh mama. Here’s where the Vikings will need to make their mark felt. Atlanta’s run defense has improved on the back end, as you will notice from their much-improved open field yards, but that’s about it. The Falcons are allowing more rushing yards, have a worse defense according to DVOA (the worst in the NFL this season), aren’t stopping short-yardage plays as well, and are allowing more big-time rushing conversions this season over last season. Minnesota would do well to heavily attack Atlanta’s run defense, especially to keep Atlanta’s offense off the field.

Pass defense: Atlanta Falcons

Team Completions/Attempts (Comp. %) Passing yards against (Rank) Passing touchdowns against (Rank) Net yards per attempt against (Rank) Pass Defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
Team Completions/Attempts (Comp. %) Passing yards against (Rank) Passing touchdowns against (Rank) Net yards per attempt against (Rank) Pass Defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
Atlanta 249/391 (63.7%) 2287 (8) 13 (t-8) 5.4 (t-2) 12.5% (18) 6.6% (16)

Atlanta has gotten much better against the pass this season and that comes from finally managing to get their hands on and develop a few worthwhile pass rushers. Their linebackers, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, are personal favorites of mine from their draft years and they are speedy SOB’s that can fly to the ball from sideline to sideline. This is an athletic defense and they get where they want to go very quickly. Minnesota’s tackles will have to be on their game to keep Vic Beasley and company away from Keenum.

Atlanta Falcons defenders

Player Solo tackles Assisted tackles Sacks Passes defensed
Player Solo tackles Assisted tackles Sacks Passes defensed
Keanu Neal 60 22 0 4
Deion Jones 58 30 1 6
De'Vondre Campbell 46 21 2 4
Robert Alford 42 6 0 14
Brian Poole 36 12 1 4
Adrian Clayborn 15 2 8 1
Brooks Reed 16 11 4 0
Vic Beasley 14 5 4 1
Takk McKinley 12 2 4 1
Desmond Trufant 23 4 1 10

If you hear the name of a Falcons defender on Sunday, it will likely be one of these ten. Of course, Desmond Trufant may well miss Sunday, which would be a huge boost for Minnesota’s pass defense, but the rest of these nine are quality defenders the Vikings will have to account for. Clayborn is having a bit of a career renaissance with the Falcons, as 15.5 of his 28.5 career sacks have come since he joined the Falcons in 2015. Safety Keanu Neal is leading the Falcons in tackles and he is playing very well in his second season in the NFL.

As with the last two teams we have played, the Falcons have allowed just two receivers to break 100 yards against their pass defense this season: Charles Clay (5 catches on 7 targets for 112 yards) with the Bills did it in their 23-17 win over the Falcons, Robbie Anderson (6 catches on 6 targets for 104 yards and a TD) did it in Atlanta’s 25-20 win over the Jets, and Davante Adams of the Packers almost did it (8 catches on 10 targets for 99 yards and a TD). So wide receivers are capable of having success against these corners, and Minnesota should have at least one of its receivers do well against the Falcons.

PFR Defensive Efficiency: Atlanta Falcons

Organization Scoring % (Rank) Avg. defensive starting field position (Rank) Avg. drive time allowed (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Yards allowed per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Organization Scoring % (Rank) Avg. defensive starting field position (Rank) Avg. drive time allowed (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Yards allowed per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Pro Football Reference 39.3% (29) Own 30.1 (26) 3:01 (32) 6.6 (32) 31.6 (24) 1.93 (20)

Football Outsiders efficiency: Atlanta Falcons

Organization Yards per drive allowed (Rank) Points per drive allowed (Rank) LOS per drive (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Time of possession allowed per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate against (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per drive (Rank) Field goals allowed per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs forced per drive Defensive LOS after kickoff (Rank) Points allowed per red zone trip (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per red zone trip (Rank)
Organization Yards per drive allowed (Rank) Points per drive allowed (Rank) LOS per drive (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Time of possession allowed per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate against (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per drive (Rank) Field goals allowed per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs forced per drive Defensive LOS after kickoff (Rank) Points allowed per red zone trip (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per red zone trip (Rank)
Football Outsiders 32.03 (22) 1.96 (19) 30.49 (30) 6.62 (32) 3:03 (32) .722 (30) .191 (12) .209 (31) .355 (29) .209 (24) 26.07 (27) 4.31 (7) .472 (6)

Efficiency is not a fan of the Falcons. Teams can sustain drives against them (likely due to their inability to halt most teams’ running games), they rarely force punts and they are one of the easiest teams to get at least one first down against. As for teams’ abilities to score against them, they allow plenty of field goals (so do the Vikings, to be fair) so everyone who owns Kai Forbath in fantasy football should fire him right up against this defense.

They force plenty of field goals because of their abilities to prevent red zone touchdowns, as they are seventh in the NFL in red zone touchdowns allowed (47.2%). They will need to bring their best, as the Vikings are 11th in red zone scoring offense (touchdowns on 57.5% of red zone drives). The Falcons are 16th in preventing third down conversions (39.1%), so the Vikings’ offense, ranked #2 in third down conversions (45.6%), should be able to make some things happen on those downs.

Turnovers

Like I will say at the beginning of this section in every analysis, turnovers are usually what separate the average teams from the elite teams. The average teams have games where they lose the turnover battle and games where they win it. Elite teams are almost always winning the turnover battle, even if they turn the ball over once or twice themselves. For the first time since I started writing these summaries, the Vikings will NOT be going up against a team that is good at forcing turnovers. They are, however, good at keeping the ball out of the hands of their opponents.

Turnovers: Atlanta Falcons

Side of ball Interceptions (Rank) Fumbles (Rank) Give/take (PFR) Turnover % (Rank) (FO) Turnovers per drive Interceptions per drive (Rank) Fumbles per drive (Rank)
Side of ball Interceptions (Rank) Fumbles (Rank) Give/take (PFR) Turnover % (Rank) (FO) Turnovers per drive Interceptions per drive (Rank) Fumbles per drive (Rank)
Offense 8 (11) 5 (8) 13 giveaways 10.7% (12) .113 (15) .075 (19) .038 (9)
Defense 3 (31) 7 (8) 10 takeaways 8% (29) .082 (28) .027 (31) .055 (7)

The Falcons are straight-up incompetent at getting interceptions. Desmond Trufant has two of Atlanta’s three and Deion Jones has the other, so Atlanta will be missing Trufant even more if he is out on Sunday. Minnesota will have to be good on ball security again, as the Falcons, for all their issues at getting interceptions, have managed to recover 7 of the fumbles done by other teams. In the two games Zimmer has led the Vikings against the Falcons, the Vikings were +2 in 2014 and and +2 in 2015. Turnover margin is a decider in games against defenses as tough as Minnesota’s is, and Minnesota will be swarming for more.

Special Teams

Atlanta has one of the most aggressive kick return games in the NFL, so the Vikings will have to be ready for them to bring out some kicks. The Falcons are averaging 2.6 returns per game, though, as listed above, it’s not working particularly well in giving them good field position.

Atlanta’s return men

Player Punt returns (Rank) Punt return yards (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punt return TDs (Rank) Yards per punt return (Rank) Kick returns (Rank) Kick return yards (Rank) Kick return TDs (Rank) Yards per kick return (Rank)
Player Punt returns (Rank) Punt return yards (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punt return TDs (Rank) Yards per punt return (Rank) Kick returns (Rank) Kick return yards (Rank) Kick return TDs (Rank) Yards per kick return (Rank)
Andre Roberts 14 (t-27) 125 (23) 11 (t-9) 0 (t-7) 8.9 (14) 28 (1) 601 (2) 0 (t-4) 21.5 (12)
Ben Garland 0 0 0 0 0 1 (t-78) 11 (102) 0 (t-4) 11 (100)

So Roberts is obviously their main return man on both kicks and punts, so he’ll be the one to look out for. I’m assuming Ben Garland’s return was a squib kick, as he’s a backup interior lineman. The last two games the Vikings have played against the Falcons have featured Devin Hester (2014) and Eric Weems (2015) as Atlanta’s return men, so let’s see how Andre Roberts does compared to his past compatriots.

Kicking

Player 0-19 FGA/FGM 20-29 FGA/FGM 30-39 FGA/FGM 40-49 FGA/FGM 50+ FGA/FGM PAT's made
Player 0-19 FGA/FGM 20-29 FGA/FGM 30-39 FGA/FGM 40-49 FGA/FGM 50+ FGA/FGM PAT's made
Matt Bryant 1/1 5/5 4/6 6/6 5/6 28/28

Like Matt Prater last week, Matt Bryant has only missed three kicks all season. Unlike Prater, though, Bryant has missed one field goal from 36 and had one from 37 blocked. The missed field goal from over 50 yards was from 59 yards, so his accuracy is still right up there with the best in the league. The Falcons have allowed 21 kick returns this season and have allowed the seventh-most kick return yards in the NFL, so the Vikings return teams will have plenty of opportunity for returns on Sunday.

Atlanta punters

Player Punts (Rank) Punt yards (Rank) Longest punt (Rank) Average punt (Rank) Net punt length (Rank) Blocked punts (Rank) Punts inside the 20 (Rank) Touchbacks (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punts returned (Rank) Punt return yardage (Rank) Punt return avg. yards
Player Punts (Rank) Punt yards (Rank) Longest punt (Rank) Average punt (Rank) Net punt length (Rank) Blocked punts (Rank) Punts inside the 20 (Rank) Touchbacks (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punts returned (Rank) Punt return yardage (Rank) Punt return avg. yards
Matt Bosher 33 (31) 1471 (31) 62 (t-17) 44.6 (24) 40.9 (t-17) 0 (t-8) 12 (t-29) 2 (t-21) 12 (t-19) 13 (t-7) 81 (8) 6.2 (10)

Matt Bosher hasn’t been used a whole lot by the Falcons this season, and he’s been punting at an acceptable level so far. His average and net punting yards are below-average and likely seem to be relying on punts going out of bounds over forcing fair catches or allowing punt returns. It’ll be interesting to see how much Atlanta’s punt game comes into play on Sunday.

Conclusion

This will be another toughie for the Vikings. They’re facing one of the NFL’s elite offenses, including one of its best wide receivers, and hopefully they fare better defensively than they have in their last few road games. The Falcons have a tough offense to handle but teams have managed it so far this season, so we will have to wait and see how the Vikings do.

Atlanta’s defense has improved, but they are still vulnerable on the ground. They were burned big time by Russell Wilson using his legs in Week 11, so the Vikings should consider incorporating one or two more of the read-option concepts that let Case Keenum score his rushing touchdown last week. They should also be welcoming back Mike Remmers with open arms, as he should improve their ground game with his physicality. They’ve been particularly weak guarding against backs going to the left, so let’s see how often they exploit that.

As for Minnesota’s passing game, Atlanta has two corners worth their salt in Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant. Trufant didn’t practice today, so his status for Sunday is definitely in doubt. Alford is ranked #74 by PFF so he’s not played well to their standards, and if they force him onto one of Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen, the Vikings will have room to roam wherever he isn’t.

As for Minnesota’s defense, the Vikings desperately need Eric Kendricks healthy for Sunday. If he’s healthy, I think the Vikings win. If he’s not, I think things swing a little more towards the Falcons.

My score prediction: Vikings 27-Falcons 17.