The Vikings are a very good team with a very good defense. It’s a defense that has few, if any issues and one that has a corner capable of slowing Julio Jones down in Xavier Rhodes. That said, the Vikings have only faced one very good offense in their current winning streak (the Rams). Otherwise, they’ve faced the Lions, Redskins (30 points scored), Browns, Ravens, Packers (minus Rodgers), and Bears. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good defense - they clearly are - but they’ve had a run against mostly inferior offenses. The Falcons will miss Trufant, but I’m a believer that the real Case Keenum has to show up sometime. All of that factors into a close game that will undoubtedly make us all nervous, but will be worth it in the end.
Vikings 26 - Falcons 24
Hear me out before I’m beheaded. While I am truly encouraged by the last three weeks, this is a different test for Atlanta that Dallas, Seattle, and Tampa Bay can not provide. Minnesota is 9-2 and powered behind a defense that is fifth overall and second in the NFL in yards allowed per play. The return of Devonta Freeman will help and adds another playmaker on the field for the Falcons but what catches my attention mainly is the absence of cornerback Desmond Trufant. A corner who has been really good this season and now the Falcons meet a pair of receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen who have 110 catches and eight TDs between them. The Falcons pass rush must come to play on Sunday or this will be a loss that escapes the Falcons’ grasp. By the way, I do feel this is the last loss of the season for Atlanta.
Vikings 31 - Falcons 28
No Trufant = A big problem. I anticipate that Minnesota will move Diggs and Thielen around to get whichever poor CB the Falcons send out there that is neither Alford nor Poole and find positive results. I also expect Minnesota to continue to make things easy for Case Keenum by getting the ball out of his hands on time to help neutralize what pass rush we do have. Our offense is looking more and more like 2016’s unit, and winning this game - if it’s going to happen - will likely fall on their shoulders once again.
Falcons 31 - Vikings 28
I’ve drifted back and forth on this pick this week after assuming the team would be missing its best defensive player in Desmond Trufant. Minnesota is no joke in the passing game, and with Brian Poole playing but nicked up, it just doesn't seem like the Falcons can fully stop both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs without Tru. And yet, I still believe this game can be won. The offense is beginning to get oven top hot, and maybe the Falcons’ pass rush can get to Case Keenum just enough to force a turnover or two (particularly with starting RT Mike Remmers out). Both of these teams are playing well right now. If this were in Minny, you don't feel as confident. But thankfully, you get eight at home. Make no mistake: they've got to win this one if they don't want to lean on sweeping the Saints to get a playoff spot. Falcons in a close one.
Falcons 27 - Vikings 31
I’d have this going the other way if the Falcons weren’t so desperately thin at corner. The Minnesota Vikings have seemingly done the impossible and put together one of the league’s best teams with Case Keenum feeding Adam Thielen. Atlanta’s run defense is already spotty, while the offense will have their work cut out for them against Mike Zimmer’s nasty defense. I think Atlanta can keep it close, but they haven’t been consistent enough this year to make me feel confident they can pull out the W.
Vikings 27 - Falcons 23
This is a bad matchup for the Falcons. They don’t have the depth to handle Minnesota’s dynamic wide receiver duo. No tandem is more dangerous than Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Using Robert Alford to shadow Diggs will be required, if they are going to hold up defensively. The possibility of not having Brian Poole makes an already problematic matchup worse against Thielen. Between the difficulties of trying to contain both wide receivers, the offensive line will have to cope with a nasty pass rush. Everson Griffen could have his way with Jake Matthews. There are too many concerns to believe in the Falcons. Unless Case Keenum finally regresses, Minnesota should continue their impressive winning streak.
Falcons 24 - Vikings 30
I want, very much, to believe the Falcons will win this one. I believe they can, but that is not really the same thing.
Atlanta is playing this game without Desmond Trufant and possibly without Brian Poole. They’re playing a team that can run well, pass well, and defend quite well. Yes, they’re at home and yes, they’ve been hot, but this might be the single most difficult matchup they’ve faced this year in many ways. It’s fair to say I’m nervous, and it’s fair to say I expect this to be a frustrating, close game Atlanta will ultimately drop. It’s also fair to say that I hope I am wrong.