I have no dread in my heart for the Vikings. I’m expecting the Falcons to lose this game, but with the coaching staff changes, the fact that Atlanta is all but completely out of it at 0-5, and my acceptance of where this team is going have combined to make me less anxious than usual about the matchup ahead. All I really want is a good game.
You’ll see that in my concern for today, while my best reason to feel confident is a revival from one of the team’s best players, who we all know has been in a bit of a funk. Let’s break this thing down.
Feel confident that Matt Ryan will bounce back a bit
The Falcons are steering into one of the easier portions of their schedule, at least for the passing attack. Matt Ryan may or may not have Julio Jones back, but he’ll have a shaky secondary to prey on with a hopefully fully healthy Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage to chip in. Upon further review, Ryan’s shakiness was a big problem last week, but he and Hayden Hurst were agonizingly close to having a big day, and removing the degree of difficulty posed by a pretty solid Panthers secondary will help in a big way.
Remember, Ryan has been solid but unspectacular throughout his history against the Vikings, but he was typically playing against defenses that were playing a lot better than this one. In 6 games, he’s completing 66% of his passes for 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, and he has a number of rookies like Jeff Gladney to pick on Sunday.
I’m not suggesting Ryan’s going to go off—I’m not starting him on my fantasy team this week or anything—but I do think there’s a very good chance he’ll put the last couple of mediocre weeks in the rear view mirror. That’d be a positive sign for his fortunes the rest of the way and heading into next year, when Ryan’s either going to be playing for a new coaching staff or trying to hold on to his job with a new draft pick in town.
Worry about the Vikings getting on track
The 2019 Vikings were 8th in scoring and 16th in yards on offense, standing 5th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed for the year. They were, quite simply, a good football team, one that dispatched the Saints in the playoffs before losing to the eventual NFC Super Bowl representative 49ers in the Divisional Round.
That team is fairly close to this one in terms of personnel and coaching staffs, minus a couple of key pieces like Stefon Diggs but plus a bunch of enhanced, young depth. Yet these Vikings have been a bad football team so far in 2020, having dropped to 1-4 last weekend and looking bad more or less across the board while doing so.
That’s the story on balance for the season, but there are concerning signs (for this week’s matchup, at least, I like the Vikings fine) that this is a team starting to figure things out. Minnesota lost 31-30 to a very good Titans team in Week 3, beat Houston 31-23 in Week 4, and lost 27-26 to a very good Seahawks team in Week 5. They’re not yet a world beater or even close to the best team in the NFC North, but they’re also rounding into playing better football.
I don’t have to tell you that this deeply discombobulated Falcons team doesn’t stand a chance against a Vikings team as good as the one they played last year, so my concern is that Minnesota keeps trending up and simply outplays Atlanta across the board. The pressure’s off the Falcons in so many ways, but I’d still rather not watch them get destroyed by a Vikings team that has made a habit of that in recent years, just for the sake of my Sunday.