Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- This game features two teams with .500 records that have had an up-and-down first half of the season but are both in the thick of the playoff hunt.
- Both teams will have new starting quarterbacks for this game, with the Vikings starting rookie Jaren Hall and the Falcons starting journeyman Taylor Heinicke.
- The Falcons pass defense is the only area between the two defenses that ranks outside the top 12 in the NFL.
- There are a plethora of offensive weapons on both sides of the ball, giving this game more upside than what you would expect from a game with a Vegas-implied total of only 37.
- The Vikings defense has the highest blitz rate in the NFL.
How minnesota Will Try To Win ::
The Vikings started this season off very poorly, losing their first three games and being put in a position where many people were suggesting they bench Kirk Cousins, tank the season, and try to draft a stud quarterback in the 2024 draft. They answered the call, however, and won four of their next five games to fight their way back into playoff contention and a .500 record. As fate would have it, they will end up playing this year without Cousins anyway after he tore his Achilles in their convincing Week 8 win over the Packers. In the aftermath of the Cousins injury, the Vikings have expressed their confidence in rookie quarterback Jaren Hall but also obtained Josh Dobbs from the Cardinals in a trade before Tuesday’s deadline. The Vikings have already announced that Hall will start this week as Dobbs gets adjusted and learns the playbook, but we have no word yet on whether or not Dobbs will be active.
The Vikings passing offense to date has been explosive and impressive, ranking 12th in the NFL in DVOA despite playing three games without arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL (Justin Jefferson). They also rank fourth in the NFL in pass rate over expectation (PROE), showing their aggressive nature under second year head coach Kevin O’Connell. Now down their star wide receiver AND top-12 NFL QB (yes, it’s true), it is highly likely we see a different offense at least in the short term. Jaren Hall is a fifth round rookie quarterback out of BYU who drew praise from teammates and coaches for how he stepped in last week and most notably how he led and played with poise. He did have one turnover in his short time on the field, but kept it together and got the Vikings out of Lambeau with a win. Highly respected NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlien had this to say about Hall in his NFL.com pre-draft prospect analysis:
“An undersized pocket quarterback with unimpressive arm strength, Hall’s field command gives him a shot to make it at the next level. He throws with excellent ball placement to targets on the move and delivers a feathery soft deep ball with accuracy. His lack of drive velocity creates smaller margins for error and his timing needs to be impeccable to beat NFL man coverage. Hall operates with ideal poise from the pocket. He does an adequate job of reading coverages and getting rid of the ball without taking sacks. The size and arm strength will concern some teams, but offenses operating out of heavy play-action with levels-based route concepts could target him as a solid future backup.”
We can almost certainly expect the Vikings to have a more balanced game plan in Hall’s first start as they try to manage the game around his limitations. This is a chess match, however, and the Falcons will know that and are likely to load the box and bring pressure – forcing Hall to prove he can beat them. Hall has the luxury of two elite playmakers in tight end TJ Hockenson and rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison. Hall’s touch on deep balls that was noted in his pre-draft write-up will be key, and they will likely dial up a couple of shots to Addison, as the Falcons will almost certainly dare him to beat them deep the same way they dared Will Levis to do so for the Titans. The difference here is that Hall does not have close to the same arm strength or size as Levis, making it less likely that he’s able to burn them the way they did last week. After playing in several shootouts to start the season, Vikings games have failed to reach 40 total points in four of the last five weeks. Their defense has been improving and the Falcons offense has been struggling, meaning that the Vikings will almost certainly be focused on once again winning the turnover and field position game while protecting their young quarterback. In the passing game, they may have to involve their running backs and secondary wide receivers, KJ Osborn and Brandon Powell, more this week as they look for ways to move the ball down the field as the Falcons defense shrinks things on their running game and keys in on Hockenson and Addison.