Vikings, Falcons turn to new starting quarterbacks in matchup of 4-4 teams
Thu, Nov 2, 2023
NFL News (AP)
MINNESOTA (4-4) at ATLANTA (4-4)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, FOX.
OPENING LINE: Falcons by 4 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Minnesota 4-4, Atlanta 2-6.
SERIES RECORD: Vikings lead 20-12.
LAST MEETING: Falcons beat Vikings 40-23 on Oct. 18, 2020, at Minnesota.
LAST WEEK: Vikings beat Packers 24-10; Titans beat Falcons 28-23.
VIKINGS OFFENSE: OVERALL (10), RUSH (31), PASS (2), SCORING (T-14)
VIKINGS DEFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (13), PASS (15), SCORING (11)
FALCONS OFFENSE: OVERALL (14), RUSH (10), PASS (18), SCORING (T-27).
FALCONS DEFENSE: OVERALL (6), RUSH (14), PASS (8), SCORING (14).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Vikings minus-5; Falcons minus-7,
VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Jordan Addison. The first-round draft pick has been even more valuable and reliable in the absence of superstar Justin Jefferson, with seven touchdown receptions to lead all rookies and he ranks second overall in the NFL behind Tyreek Hill. Addison is the only player in the league this season with two touchdowns of 60-plus yards.
FALCONS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Taylor Heinicke showed no signs of rust in his first regular-season appearance of 2023 as he completed 12 of 21 passes for 175 yards with a touchdown while playing the second half last week. He will make his first start since Dec. 24, 2022, when he completed 13 of 18 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in Washington's 37-20 loss at San Francisco. He did not throw an interception or have a fumble in his Atlanta debut, and avoiding turnovers will be the key as he replaces Desmond Ridder, who had 10 turnovers in the past five games.
KEY MATCHUP: Falcons secondary vs. Vikings passing game. The Falcons rank eighth in the league against the pass despite giving up four touchdowns to rookie Will Levis in last week's loss to the Titans. The Vikings must replace productive veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Rookie Jaren Hall will start in his place. The Falcons have only two interceptions since safety Jessie Bates' two picks in the season-opening win over Carolina. Cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Jeff Okudah have no interceptions.
KEY INJURIES: Cousins joined Jefferson (hamstring) on injured reserve this week. DT Dean Lowry (groin) didn't practice on Wednesday. CB Akayleb Evans (neck), WR K.J. Osborn (chest) and WR/PR Brandon Powell (shoulder) were limited. ... Falcons WR Drake London (groin) could miss the game after being held out of practice on Wednesday. Cornerback and return specialist Mike Hughes (shoulder) and FB Keith Smith (concussion) were limited.
SERIES NOTES: The Vikings won four straight in the series before losing in Minnesota in 2020 to the then-winless Falcons. The streak included wins in Atlanta in 2015 and 2017. ... The Falcons have six players who have formerly played for the Vikings, including two of their first-round draft picks: CB Mike Hughes (2018) and RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson (2013).
STATS AND STUFF: Minnesota is 3-1 on the road. Atlanta is 3-1 at home. ... The Vikings' three-game winning streak is the longest in the NFC. ... The Vikings rank sixth in the league in sacks allowed per pass attempt (5.71%). ... The Vikings are the only team in the NFL with four players with at least 30 receptions, 350 receiving yards and two touchdowns: Addison, Jefferson, Osborn and TE T.J. Hockenson. ... Hockenson is second among TEs in the league with 53 catches. ... The Vikings defense tied for the league lead in October with seven forced fumbles and ranked third in yards allowed per game (287) and yards allowed per play (4.6). ... Vikings OLB Danielle Hunter leads the league with 10 sacks and has a sack in seven of eight games. ... The Falcons have allowed a league-low one rushing touchdown, including none in the past five games. ... RB Bijan Robinson leads rookies with 466 rushing yards and is second with 655 scrimmage yards. ... The Falcons have rushed for at least 100 yards in six of eight games this season. They have 100 yards in 22 games since the start of the 2022 season, second most in the league behind Baltimore's 24. ... LT Jake Matthews has made 152 consecutive starts, two behind QB Matt Ryan's team-record 154 from 2009 to 2019. ... The Falcons are listing DT Albert Huggins, who has three tackles in four games, as the starter after Grady Jarrett's season-ending knee injury.
FANTASY TIP: Falcons TE Kyle Pitts has no more than three catches in five of eight games this season and has only one scoring reception for the season. What better way for Heinicke to make an impact than to highlight Pitts, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 draft? Pitts has only one game with more than 47 receiving yards this season and has been difficult to trust for fantasy managers.
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