When the Falcons face off against the Vikings on Sunday, there will be a wrinkle they likely didn't anticipate before Sunday's game. That wrinkle's name is Teddy Bridgewater, who will be making his first NFL start Sunday.
Multiple reports indicate that starting quarterback Matt Cassel has multiple broken bones in his foot, which would sideline him for a few weeks, at minimum. That leaves the Louisville first-rounder as the Vikings' starter, and he certainly offers a different look than Cassel, as well as more upside. Cassel, after all, has shown at every stop that he's at best a capable starter, and most of the time he's hovering well south of that lofty benchmark. The Falcons certainly would have known precisely what they were facing had he been under center.
Bridgewater is a smart, precise passer when he has time. He got a reputation as a runner coming into the draft for reasons that aren't completely clear, given that he was never a huge scrambler in college, but he can use his legs to escape a collapsing pocket or take off and gain a few yards if pressure's coming to one side. His best attributes this early in his career are definitely his intelligence, pocket presence and accuracy, with arm strength ranking as perhaps his greatest weakness. The good news is that his accuracy wasn't all that spectacular when he stepped in Sunday, but I think as his comfort level grows that will come, and perhaps quickly.
The Vikings are still uniquely positioned to take advantage of Bridgewater's strengths, given the presence of Coraderelle Patterson. He's a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches it, so an offense built around quick hitters to Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph should help mitigate the pressure Bridgewater's inevitably going to be feeling, while taking some of the pressure off a ground game that has been just so-so without Adrian Peterson. If that works, the Vikings can probably cobble together a better offensive performance than they did against the Saints, when they scored just nine points.
The Falcons, for their part, get to game plan for a rookie without a terribly strong run game to support him. As Th2 noted the other day, the Falcons had great success stopping the Buccaneers with the much-maligned heavy 4-3 front that includes Paul Soliai, Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux, Tyson Jackson and others on the line, and that front got more pressure than I initially remembered while holding Bobby Rainey in check. I'm still advocating more Stansly Maponga, Malliciah Goodman and Jonathan Massaquoi involvement in the interest of getting after Bridgewater, especially given his escape ability. As long as the Falcons can generate pressure on a fairly regular basis and not let the likes of Matt Asiata romp, they'll be in excellent shape for this one.
Nonetheless, this will be an interesting test for the Falcons defense on the road. Do you think they'll be able to contain Bridgewater?