(WCCO/CBS Local) — For Week 1 of the NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings welcome the Atlanta Falcons to U.S. Bank Stadium, where they enjoy a strong home-field advantage. The Vikings will be looking to move past last year’s ho-hum showing and return to the form that had them one game from the Super in 2017. They’ll first have to ground the high-flying Falcons.
“The Falcons want to throw it all over the yard,” according to SportsLine senior analyst Larry Hartstein. “They’ve got Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley. Devonta Freeman [is] now healthy.” Ryan, in particular, continues to be one of the NFL’s elite passers. His 2018 stats put him near the top across many important categories — from completions (fourth) to yards (third) to touchdowns (third) — even as the Falcons struggled to a 7-9 finish.
Can the Vikings disarm Ryan and his many on-field weapons? Minnesota features one of the NFL’s better defenses. And aside from the losses of tackle Sheldon Richardson and safety Andrew Sendejo, it looks much the same as last season. They’ll look to slow down the game , on defense and offense.
“The Vikings say they want to control the clock,” as Hartstein notes. “They brought in Gary Kubiak (assistant head coach/offensive adviser). They brought in Rich Dennison (offensive line coach/run game coordinator). These are run game experts. They are going to try to run the ball, grind down the Falcons.”
How will it all play out? For a clue, look no further than previous head coaching matchups. “The last two times that (Vikings) Mike Zimmer faced (Falcons) Dan Quinn… 20-10 and 14-9, Minnesota,” as Hartstein recalls. “So both games went exactly according to plan for Minnesota.”
The Falcons face the Vikings Sunday @ 12 pm CT.