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The 4 Falcons-Vikings Matchups That Matter In Week 4

Matchups that will make a huge difference for the Falcons vs. Vikings game.

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Scott Cunningham

When you've got two teams as mismatched as the Falcons and Vikings, matchups become even more critical than usual. The Falcons are an air-it-out team with a great quarterback, at least four quality receiving options, an improving offensive line and an underrated secondary. The Vikings are—were—built to run the ball first and set things up for the passing game, and they have a front seven that is light years ahead of the Falcons' up front.

The Falcons would appear to have the advantage here, and I believe they do. Yet I won't take this Vikings team lightly, and neither should any of us. Here are five matchups likely to be important to the outcome.

1) Devin Hester vs. Vikings Special Teams

Hester has scored more return touchdowns against the Vikings than any other NFL team. He's still a weapon there, as he showed a week ago, and the Vikings would be wise to either avoid him or ensure there's appropriate hang time on punts and kicks to allow them to get downfield before he gets room to work his magic. Normally you wouldn't list this as a top priority, but Hester's ability to score in mere seconds on special teams can be demoralizing, and it could even turn the tide of the game.

2) Mike Nolan vs. Cordarelle Patterson

There isn't a more dangerous player on the field than Patterson for the Vikings. He can take a handoff, catch a short pass or run a deep route and make an impact on this game. He's got real size and strength to go with incredible wheels and agility, and a Falcons game plan that limits the damage he can do is the only game plan I want to see.

So Nolan will have to ensure he has talented defenders who can cover on Patterson every time he's lined up out wide, and if he's in the backfield for any reason the Falcons need to have an agile, sure-tackling player staring him down whenever possible. The Vikings can theoretically beat the Falcons in any number of ways when they have the ball, but getting it to Patterson remains the easiest and most likely. Keeping the ball out of his hands ensures Bridgewater will have a rougher time and puts more pressure on a pretty mediocre ground game.

3) Julio Jones vs. Captain Munnerlyn/Xavier Rhodes

Whoever is covering Julio will have help, more than likely, and plenty of it.

The question is how effectively these cornerbacks can work against Jones when that safety help isn't available, or even when it is. Jones can beat double coverage with his size and speed, and he can certainly torch one on one coverage. He's also seen Munnerlyn before, so there's not much element of surprise there, and certainly Matt Ryan's not going to let the fact that Mike Zimmer knows Julio's going to be a frequent target discourage him from throwing Julio's way.

Jones will be a fixture in these weekly matchups, as you might imagine, because he presents such a problem for every defense the Falcons will face. The Vikings are no exception to that, even if their top two corners are legitimately talented.

4) Jake Matthews and Lamar Holmes vs. Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen

The Vikings will be able to bring pressure up the middle, but Ryan's quite good at dealing with pressure he can see coming into his face. With four receiving options on the field on any given play, he'll usually have an out if Linval Joseph is coming in hot.

Off the edges is a little bit of a different story. The Bengals were able to wreak some havoc with Carlos Dunlap, in particular, and the Vikings can bring it off the edges with Everson Griffen and rookie Anthony Barr. Griffen's more of a power and technique rusher, where Barr looks very proficient already and has the speed and athleticism to be a problem. Let's hope the team's young tackle duo can handle them both without major issues.

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