One of the questions we haven’t lingered on for this weekend’s matchup with the Vikings is whether the Falcons will be able to run against them. That’s not a given, and the answer to that question may well help to determine the outcome of this one.
On one hand, you have Tevin Coleman fresh off three quality games in a row, and Devonta Freeman returning from the concussion protocol. That gives the Falcons one of the best running duos in the NFL, and one certainly good enough to give even a good defense fits.
The problem is that the Vikings are not just a good run defense. They are, by almost any metric you choose, one of the best run defenses in the NFL. They’re second in yards allowed per game, tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns allowed, and third in yards per carry. As you’d expect from a team with their formidable talent up front, Minnesota can bully teams at the line of scrimmage, and they have the linebackers and safeties to keep things contained if you can make it by the big men up front. They are good enough to make teams one-dimensional.
The Falcons, though? Atlanta may find the going tough, particularly if they’re going to try to have Freeman run between the tackles, where the Vikings brook no nonsense. The Falcons will be wise to try to maintain some balance in their gameplan, but to some extent, they should expect to find the sledding pretty tough and work around that. A short passing game that gets Freeman and Coleman the ball with a little more breathing room would be welcome here.
Given that Minnesota’s averaging only 75 or so rushing yards allowed per game, I’ll predict the Falcons wind up shy of 100 here. If they can still commit to it and avoid turnovers, they’ll be in good shape to beat the Vikings.