The Atlanta Falcons travel to Minneapolis this weekend to battle the Minnesota Vikings in an all- NFC showdown. Kickoff is set for 1:00 PM EST on September 8th at U.S. Bank Stadium and the game will be broadcast on FOX.
Oddsmakers opened this game up with the Vikings listed as 4-point home favorites. That line has yet to change after early betting, as Minnesota is currently available at -4. The total for this matchup is 47.5 points. Click here for a full look at the Week 1 NFL odds and for more links to our individual game previews.
Vikings vs Falcons Vegas Game Odds & Betting Preview
The Falcons had a disappointing year in 2018, going just 7-9 overall and failing to qualify for the playoffs just a year removed from a trip to the divisional round against Philadelphia. Atlanta’s biggest weakness last season was their play on defense, as they allowed opponents to average 26.4 points per game (25th overall). They also were ranked near the bottom of the league against both the run and the pass, giving up 124.9 (25th overall) and 259.6 (28th overall) yards per game respectively. It remains to be seen how this group will perform moving forward, as the roster on defense appears to be relatively unchanged from 2018.
Atlanta was certainly much better on the other side of the ball last year, as Matt Ryan and Co. averaged 25.9 points per game (9th overall). Star WR Julio Jones had a bit of a sluggish start but turned it on in the second half, finishing the season with 1,677 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Jones was momentarily listed as questionable for Sunday earlier in the week, but it now appears as if he will be available. It remains to be seen how his play is affected by feelings of displeasure over the way his current contract situation is being handled. However, owner Arthur Blank recently reassured his fanbase by publicly stating that a new agreement was “very, very close” to being completed. One area that the Falcons offense will want to improve in 2019 is their ground attack, as they averaged just 98.3 rushing yards per game (27th overall).
It was a tough end to the season in 2018 for the Vikings, as they ended up going 8-7-1 overall which left them on the outside looking in come playoff time. Minnesota couldn’t find a way to leapfrog Chicago in the NFC North, finishing 2nd after losing to the Bears 24-20 in Week 17. The good news is that star RB Dalvin Cook appears to be back to 100% after an injury-riddled 2017 season. Cook led the way for a Vikings ground attack that averaged 93.3 yards per game (30th overall). However, that statistic may be a bit misleading, as Cook racked up a ton of yardage in the passing game and finished the year with 305 receiving yards. QB Kirk Cousins was certainly serviceable in his first full year with Minnesota, as he led a Vikings passing attack that averaged 252.2 yards per game through the air (13th). As a whole, the offense averaged 22.5 points per game (18th overall).
Minnesota was in the top half of the NFL defensively in 2018, holding opponents to only 21.3 points per game (10th overall). The Vikings defense was especially good against the pass, giving up just 196.2 yards per game through the air (3rd overall). They were also quite effective against the run, allowing an average of 113.4 yards per game on the ground (13th overall).
Free NFL Betting Predictions and ATS Pick: Falcons +4
This looks like it could be one of the best games on the schedule here in Week 1, as each of these teams has elite talent on both sides of the ball. One of the most interesting matchups to watch on Sunday will be Julio Jones going up against a very solid Vikings secondary. Despite being the third best defense against the pass in 2018, Minnesota did make some bad mistakes downfield at the beginning of the season. If there is one receiver in the NFL that you can’t afford to give an extra inch of space too, it’s definitely Julio. If he gets even a fraction of separation, his size and athleticism take over and there is no catching him. Of course, Minnesota has a star-studded group of wide receivers themselves, as the 1-2 punch of Thielen and Diggs is probably the best combination in the entire league. Even though Diggs appears to be a little bit banged up, I still think the Vikings passing offense could have a big game against a below-average Falcons defense.
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Dalvin Cook should be another interesting player to watch in this game, especially after Gary Kubiak was brought in during the offseason to help establish the run. Minnesota was forced to part ways with offensive coordinator John DeFillipo halfway through 2018 after he refused to come up with more run-heavy offensive schemes. Kubiak should play a big part in what may potentially be a breakout season for Cook. I really feel as if there isn’t a whole lot of separation between these two teams, although the rowdy home crowd should certainly provide a big boost for the Vikings. I think that this game will likely be decided by a field goal or less, which makes me gravitate towards the Falcons and the four points. It is worth noting that the road team is a very solid 3-1-1 ATS over the last five meetings between these two teams. Even if Atlanta can’t find a way to pull of a minor upset on the road to open their 2019 season, I still like them to cover and stay within a field goal on Sunday afternoon.