The 9-2 Minnesota Vikings head into Mercedes-Benz Stadium to take on the 7-4 Falcons on Sunday in what could be one of the best games of Week 13. Playoff seeding may very well be on the line—particularly for the Falcons—as an Atlanta win helps keep pace in the division and could be a valuable tiebreaker in terms of home-field advantage. The Vikings would love to steal another game on the road, tightening their grip on the NFC North.
This is shaping up to be a very competitive match-up, as both teams appear to be hitting their stride. Let’s take a look at how the Falcons and Vikings compare statistically through twelve weeks.
|Points/game||24.1 (11th)||24.6 (8th)|
|Total yards/game||373.4 (6th)||375.7 (5th)|
|Yards per play||6.1 (2nd)||5.6 (8th)|
|Passing yards/game||256.5 (9th)||251.3 (12th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||8.1 (T-3rd)||7.6 (T-7th)|
|Passing TDs||17 (T-13th)||17 (T-13th)|
|Rushing yards/game||116.8 (T-10th)||124.5 (6th)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.4 (T-6th)||4.0 (T-16th)|
|Rushing TDs||10 (T-7th)||12 (4th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||48% (1st)||46% (2nd)|
|Turnover Margin||-3 (20th)||4 (13th)|
The Falcons have rebounded from their midseason offensive slump with two straight 30+ point games, re-establishing themselves as one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses. Atlanta has improved to 11th in scoring offense, 6th in total yards, and 2nd in yards per play. Through the air, the team is 9th in yards, T-3rd in yards per attempt, and T-13th in TDs. On the ground, the Falcons are T-10th in yards, T-6th in yards per carry, and T-7th in TDs. Atlanta has become the NFL’s best offense on third down, converting an absurd 48% of attempts. The team has continued to struggle with turnovers, however, as they remain negative there (-3, 20th).
Minnesota has weathered the loss of starting QB Sam Bradford and starting RB Dalvin Cook exceptionally well. The Vikings are 8th in scoring offense, 5th in total yards, and 8th in yards per play. In the passing game, the team is 12th in yards, T-7th in yards per attempt, and T-13th in passing TDs. On the ground, Minnesota is 6th in yards, T-16th in yards per carry, and 4th in TDs. The Vikings are currently right behind the Falcons in third down offense, converting 46% of their attempts. They’ve also protected the ball well, as the team is +4 in turnover margin (13th).
|Points/game||20.9 (13th)||17.7 (5th)|
|Total yards/game||321.8 (10th)||290.4 (5th)|
|Yards per play||5.0 (10th)||4.7 (2nd)|
|Passing yards/game||207.9 (8th)||214.9 (11th)|
|Passing yards per attempt||6.4 (T-3rd)||6.5 (T-5th)|
|Passing TDs||13 (T-8th)||12 (T-4th)|
|Rushing yards/game||113.9 (20th)||75.5 (2nd)|
|Rushing yards per attempt||4.4 (T-25th)||3.4 (3rd)|
|Rushing TDs||8 (T-16th)||6 (T-7th)|
|Third Down Efficiency||39% (16th)||28% (1st)|
|Sacks||30 (T-9th)||30 (T-9th)|
The Falcons have made big improvements in their defense since last season, but their run stopping still leaves a lot to be desired. Atlanta is currently 13th in scoring defense, 10th in total yards, and 10th in yards per play. Against the pass, they’re 8th in yards, T-3rd in yards per attempt, and T-8th in TDs. On the ground, the Falcons are 20th in yards, T-25th in yards per carry, and T-16th in TDs. Atlanta is about average on third down (39% conversion rate, 16th), but are currently top-10 in sacks with 30 (T-9th).
Minnesota has one of the NFL’s best defenses, particularly against the run. The Vikings are 5th in scoring defense, 5th in total yards, and 2nd in yards per play. Against the pass, the team is 11th in yards, T-5th in yards per attempt, and T-4th in TDs. On the ground, Minnesota is 2nd in yards, 3rd in yards per carry, and T-7th in TDs. The Vikings are the NFL’s best third down defense, holding opposing offenses to only a 28% conversion rate. They’re also good at taking down the QB, with 30 sacks (T-9th) on the season.
There’s no sugar-coating it: this is going to be an incredibly difficult match-up for the Falcons. Minnesota can match the Falcons’ firepower on offense and are well-equipped to take advantage of Atlanta’s deficiencies defending the run. If the Falcons are down Desmond Trufant and/or Brian Poole, that’ll make things even easier for a strong Vikings’ passing game that features two very talented WRs in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
On offense, the Falcons should have the most success attacking the Vikings through the air—where Minnesota has been good, but not great. The running game will have an extremely tough match-up against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Sark will need to get creative with his calls there—perhaps leaning more on the RBs in the passing game. This game features a match-up of the NFL’s best third down offense and third down defense. Whoever has more success there could very well decide the game.
Atlanta has the advantage of playing at home—the Vikings haven’t been quite as dominant on the road—but make no mistake: this game could very well be the most difficult one left on the Falcons’ schedule. A win here makes the road to the playoffs much easier for the Falcons, but a loss doesn’t necessarily sink them either. This is an excellent “measuring stick” game for Atlanta against one of the best teams in the NFC. In the end, though, the Vikings get the slight edge statistically.
Overall Advantage: Vikings
What are your thoughts on the Vikings’ game? Do you think the Falcons take down the NFC North leaders on Sunday? What would your plan to best deal with the strengths and weaknesses of Minnesota be?