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The 2019 NFL Regular Season is finally here and we’re just days away from facing our first opponent. The road to Miami starts on Sunday when our beloved Minnesota Vikings host an Atlanta Falcons team that battled through an injury plagued 7-9 season in 2018. What do the Vikings need to do on Sunday to ensure they walk away with a win? Let’s take a look.

Eric Kendricks stares down Falcons QB Matt Ryan

3 Keys to Victory

  1. Keep the Falcons offense off the field.
  • The Falcons offense is loaded with talent that includes Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman who are all Pro-Bowlers at their respective positions. This is a unit that can wear down a defense quickly in many different ways. The Vikings defense has the crowd-noise on their side in this matchup and they’ll need every bit of it to stay in Matt Ryan’s head as well as an offensive line that features a whopping THREE former first-round picks.

2. Establish Dalvin Cook early.

  • The Falcons defense finished 25th in the league in 2018 in rush defense, giving up 125 YPG on the ground. Getting Dalvin Cook involved early will take the pressure off of Kirk Cousins in the passing game. Cousins is at his best when the Vikings offense can run play-action efficiently. If the Falcons defense is honed in on stopping Dalvin Cook, the Minnesota receivers should have a field day.

3. Take advantage of scoring opportunities.

  • Putting the ball through the uprights is not something the Vikings have done well in the past five or-so seasons. The team signed P Britton Colquitt this past weekend to replace Matt Wile. Colquitt has been in this league for a long time and has a lot of experience as a holder as well. Missed FGs and settling for FGs in the red zone is not something the Vikings can afford to do against a high-powered offense like the Falcons, who can put up points in a hurry.
Xavier Rhodes and Julio Jones

Atlanta Falcons 2018 Offensive & Defensive Rankings

  • Total Offense: 6th (389 YPG)
  • Passing: 4th (290 YPG)
  • Rushing: 27th (98 YPG)
  • Offensive Line: 20th (42 Sacks & 108 QB Hits Allowed)
  • Total Defense: 28th (384 YPG)
  • Pass Defense: 27th (259 YPG)
  • Rush Defense: 25th (124 YPG)
  • Pass Rush Efficiency: 22nd

Atlanta Falcons Offense

Atlanta Falcons Defense

Scouting the Opponent with Scott Carasik (The Falcons Wire)

  1. Which offseason addition (Free Agency or Draft) will have the biggest impact for the Falcons in this game? “Combination of all of the offensive line additions. The Falcons had a horrible offensive line last year outside of Pro Bowlers Matthews and Mack. Bringing in Lindstrom, McGary and Carpenter will improve the Falcons running game. Their pass protection should be even better because of it too.”
  2. Which matchup in this game are you most looking forward to? “The Falcons updated offensive line vs. the Vikings defense will be the biggest matchup of the game. But I’m excited to see what happens with the Falcons pass rush vs the Vikings offensive line. The Vikings line isn’t great, but the Falcons pass rush needs to show what it can do under Quinn.”
  3. The Falcons have a new starting corner this season in Isaiah Oliver. How do you expect the youngster to play against Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs? “Oliver is going to be tested through trial by fire this week. Thielen and Diggs are amazing wide receivers, but Oliver is an exceptional athlete with good instincts.”
  4. Should we expect a heavy dose of Devonta Freeman for four quarters on Sunday? Or will the Falcons sprinkle in Ito Smith like they did with Tevin Coleman? “Freeman will probably see 70% of the snaps. Then Ito (Smith) should see around 30%. Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison could both be active, but ST value is more important there.”
  5. Give me one prediction for each team in this game and the final score.
    • Falcons Prediction: Matt Ryan throws for 300 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
    • Vikings Prediction: Stefon Diggs is held to just 35 yards on 4 receptions.
    • Game Prediction: Falcons-31 Vikings-25

*You can follow Scott on Twitter at @CarasikS. You can also find his work at @TheFalconsWire.

Adam Thielen #19 of the Minnesota Vikings is tackled by Ricardo Allen #37 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Game Notes

  • Falcons QB Matt Ryan is 1-3 in his career against the Vikings, throwing for 240 YPG, 7 Touchdowns, 4 Interceptions, and a 91.0 QB Rating. Ryan is 0-1 in Minnesota.
  • Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is 0-2 in his career against the Falcons, throwing for 355 YPG, 6 Touchdowns, 6 Interceptions, and a 102.7 QB Rating. Both of Cousins’ losses took place in Atlanta.
  • The Falcons have not beat the Vikings since 2011 and have not won a game in Minnesota since 2008 (Matt Ryan’s rookie season)
  • The Vikings are 33-24-1 all-time in season openers. 20-7 at home.
  • Kirk Cousins needs 3 completions to pass Sam Bradford and Randall Cunningham (11th) on the Vikings all-time completions list.
  • Dalvin Cook needs 31 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for his career.
  • Adam Thielen needs 103 receiving yards to reach 4,000 for his career.
  • Adam Thielen needs 6 receptions to reach 300 for his career.
  • Stefon Diggs needs 1 touchdown to surpass Hassan Jones & Visanthe Shiancoe for 10th on the Vikings all-time touchdown receptions list.

*For all the latest Vikings news and updates follow me on Twitter at @Purple_Post. #SKOL

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