Vikings vs. Falcons Odds & Picks: How We’re Betting Sunday’s Spread
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images. Pictured (left to right): Atlanta Falcons stars Calvin Ridley, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
Vikings vs. Falcons Odds
Coming into the season, many would have thought this was more likely to be a matchup of potential playoff contenders. Instead, it’s a showdown between 0-5 and 1-4 teams.
Atlanta is off to its worst start in over a decade. It’s so bad for the Falcons that they have fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after their Week 5 loss at home to the Panthers. The duo was already on the hot seat following a sub-.500 season, so a five-game losing streak to start 2020 was enough for team owner Arthur Blank.
Most of the Falcons’ problems exist on the defensive side of the ball, which could pose an issue vs. Kirk Cousins and the much-improved Vikings offense, although Minnesota will be without a key playmaker.
The Vikings are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Seattle in Week 5. After turning the ball over on downs, the Seahawks went 94 yards for a game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left in the game.
It’s been a tough season for Minnesota’s defense, which is relying on a young secondary and a lot of new personnel. Mike Zimmer will need fix those issues quickly, or the Vikings’ playoff hopes could be over before the halfway point of the season.
It’s been a difficult season for Falcons fans. They’ve suffered two of the worst losses you’ll ever see against the Cowboys and Bears, and Atlanta’s hopes of a return to the playoffs are gone after just five weeks. The Falcons have also had to deal with a whole host of injuries, but they’ll get star wide receiver Julio Jones back after he missed last week’s loss to Carolina.
The Falcons’ offense hasn’t been terrible this season, but Matt Ryan is starting to show his age. Atlanta ranks 20th in passing success (per Sharp Football Stats), and Ryan is throwing for only 7.2 yards per attempt, his lowest rate since 2013. Getting Jones back will help, but the Falcons have to perform at a higher level offensively than most to win games because of their defensive woes.
Atlanta has surprisingly been running the ball effectively in 2020, ranking 14th in rushing success and averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Todd Gurley has been a solid addition, as his 4.7 yards per carry is similar average to his strong 2017 and 2018 seasons with the Rams. In order to have a chance against the Vikings, the Falcons will have to take advantage of a Minnesota defense that is ranked 29th in defensive rushing success.
Quinn is now unemployed in large part because the Falcons couldn’t stop anyone. Their main issues have came in the secondary, as they’ve ranked 29th in defensive passing success and are allowing a whopping 8.2 yards per attempt. That will be an issue against Cousins, who is throwing the ball for 8.1 yards per pass.
The Falcons have been only marginally better against the run. Atlanta has the 20th-ranked run defense and is allowing 4.3 yards per carry. Dalvin Cook’s absence on Sunday will be a boost for the Falcons.
Cousins has had a very interesting season. He’s been very efficient with his yards per attempt average, but his turnovers are an issue. Cousins has seven interceptions through the Vikings’ first four games, including this one against the Seahawks.
Kirk Cousins with a hilariously bad interception. pic.twitter.com/N3fx74G11I
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) October 12, 2020
On a more positive note, Cousins has great chemistry with No. 1 receiver Adam Thielen, and he’s quickly gotten on the same page with rookie Justin Jefferson. The two have combined for 718 yards receiving yards through five games this season. With the Falcons’ issues in the secondary, we’ll see Cousins light up the scoreboard in Minneapolis.
Obviously, the news of Cook’s injury forcing him out of this game is bad news for the Vikings. That means that back-up runner Alexander Mattison is going to operate as the lead back against Atlanta. Mattison is a very capable deputy back, as he’s averaging 4.72 yards per carry for his career and almost 5.0 yards per carry this year. Minnesota ranks 12th in rushing success and could be in store for a big day with Mattison leading the backfield.
Minnesota’s defense has been a major issue for the past two seasons. This season, the Vikings are one of the worst teams in football defending the run, ranking 29th in defensive rushing success.
The real issue though is that Minnesota has given up way too many big plays in the passing game. The Vikings are allowing 7.9 yards per attempt and have given up explosive passing plays on 12% of passing attempts, which is the second-highest mark in the league.
The Falcons have the weapons to make both of those issues even more of a problem on Sunday.
With how bad the Falcons’ defense has been through the first five weeks, I don’t think a coaching change is going to fix anything. With how efficient Cousins has been, the Vikings should be able to move the ball with ease.
I have the Vikings projected at -7.43 favorites, so I think there’s some value on Minnesota at -4. However, I would only play it to -4.5.
PICK: Vikings -4