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What an opening game to the season we have in store in Minnesota. This matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings could be arguably the matchup of the day on Sunday. Two offenses with the potential to put up a large number of points going up against two defenses which can be extremely strong on their day. Both of these teams figure to be in the hunt when it comes to the end of the season, and this could be a playoff preview under the roof in Minnesota.
- Opening Lines: The Vikings opened at -4 and the over/under opened at 47.5. The numbers briefly moved to Vikings -3.5 and total 48 but returned back to their starting point fairly quickly.
- Current Line: Minnesota Vikings -4
- O/U: 47.5
- Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Start Time: 1:00 pm EST
- Television: FOX
- Last Meeting: December 3, 2017 – Minnesota defeated Atlanta 14 – 9 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Naturally, there is no real form so to speak of, as preseason counts for very little once the real action starts. The injury report currently looks fairly clean for the Vikings. Adam Thielen has some general soreness, but the bigger issue is perhaps with Harrison Smith who has an undisclosed issue. However, we should largely be seeing both this offense and defense at its best in Week 1. Most importantly, they will have their full offensive line complement and a healthy Dalvin Cook in the backfield.
Defensively they are somewhat rolling back a group that ranked extremely high against the pass, including the best when it came to allowing touchdowns and fourth in net yards per attempt. They were slightly more vulnerable to the run game, ranking middle of the back in both yards and touchdowns.
The Falcons come into this game with a better slate of health than the Vikings, with only backups likely to be major parts of the injury report this week. Julio Jones had spent a large part of the preseason deemed questionable, but he looks good to go, which should mean this offense is firing on all cylinders.
Most importantly, that defense that was ravaged by injury last season is back at full strength. Atlanta lit it up through the air last season but came unstuck on the ground, ranking in the bottom third in yards and touchdowns. Defensively they struggled both through the air and on the ground, ranking in the bottom third in both yards and touchdowns in both formats. However, they struggled with defensive injuries last season, and now back at full strength, they will expect stronger performances.
- Vikings are 3-1 ATS when facing the Falcons since 2010.
- In 2018, the Vikings were 7-3 ATS as favorites and the Falcons 1-3 ATS as underdogs.
- The Vikings were 5-3 ATS at home last season with the Falcons 2-6 ATS on the road.
- The under has hit in 16-of-25 in games U.S. Bank Stadium and the under was 6-2 in 2018.
While I think ultimately this game ends up high scoring I am expecting a cautious opening, as both teams try to establish their running games, so they can operate their play-action off of it. Therefore, expect the first half to be a somewhat cagey affair, with the potential for not many points to be scored in the first half. Therefore the total to go under 23.5 in the first half is a tempting bet in this one.
Pick: Under 23.5 first-half points
The Bottom Line
This should be a fascinating game between two teams that could most definitely be in playoff contention come season’s end. The Falcons have the more explosive offense in this one, while the Vikings have the stronger defense. The run game could be pretty strong on both sides of the ball, and the deciding factor in this game could very much be the success the two passing games have against the opposing defense.
When a game is this close I tend to look at them position-by-position, especially offensively. The Falcons have the edge in the pass-catchers, while the two teams and pretty much awash in terms of the offensive line and running game. The key to this game comes down to the respective quarterbacks and I will take Matt Ryan over Kirk Cousins any day.
The Falcons defense at full strength should be enough to be semi-effective against this Vikings offense, and Matt Ryan will give them a chance to win the game right up to the last second. Therefore, at the very least I am taking the Falcons to cover the spread in this one.
In terms of the total, this game has two offenses that can operate at relatively high levels. The better offense should have the ability to get the better of the better defense. Meanwhile, the Falcons secondary has a glaring weak spot at the second corner. All of this, in a dome, lends itself to looking like a high scoring game, despite what the history in Minnesota says. Therefore, I am taking the over when it comes to the total in this matchup.