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Falcons defense vs. Vikings offense: who wins this matchup?

Will a coaching change make this defense competent?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re being honest, there’s little reason to think the Falcons defense is going to suddenly come to life after the departure of head coach Dan Quinn. By all accounts, the defensive play calling will stay the same, with duties shared between Jeff Ulbrich and Raheem Morris. The players aren’t suddenly better either. Let’s take a look at the matchups to see if there really is any reason to be optimistic.

In the trenches

At this point the Falcons defensive front is mostly just Grady Jarrett and a bunch of guys. Grady is still the heart of this defense even if he’s not having his best year. Dante Fowler Jr. has been disappointing to this point and Takk McKinley is good, but can barely get on the field. Guys like John Cominsky have upside, but is failing to really deliver along with Steven Means and Allen Bailey. Charles Harris has been the only other decent player on this unit.

Meanwhile, the Vikings offensive line is a bit of a mixed bag. Right guard Dru Samia is very bad. Like, the worst ranked guard in the league by PFF. He’s surrounded by two good players in RT Brian O’Neill and C Garrett Bradbury. The left side of the line is anchored by the reliable LT Riley Reiff and mediocre LG Dakota Dozier. A good defensive line can probably take advantage of some of these weaknesses.

The Falcons do not have a good defensive line. I doubt anything changes on Sunday. Expect the Vikings to win this handily.

Advantage: Vikings

The skill positions

Foye Oluokun has been the best player on the back end of the defense, surpassing the normally excellent Deion Jones who has struggled this year. Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal look better than they did at the beginning of the year but neither is particularly good. The unholy trinity of Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield and A.J. Terrell is a CB unit that makes 4th string receivers look like Jerry Rice. Any hope you put in this unit is hope wasted.

Kirk Cousins is a good QB who is prone to head scratchers. He has some great weapons in wide receivers Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson and the forever reliable TE Kyle Rudolph. RB Dalvin Cook has been amazing, but he may miss the game on Sunday. Backup Alexander Mattison is a downgrade, but will probably look like Adrian Peterson at this rate.

If you couldn’t tell, this isn’t looking great for the Falcons. Poor matchups abound in the back end of the D. Give up hope all ye who read these words.

Advantage: Vikings

Overall

This should come as no surprise for a defense that ranks as one of the worst in the league. Until they make a dramatic turn-around, they are unlikely to match up well with any offense full of players with a pulse. Perhaps if they play the New Zealand Zombies amateur football team they’ll look better.

Advantage: Vikings