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WELCOME TO THE 2019 NFL SEASON LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! We have survived the hardest part of the year and are back to kick this thing off again. With that, I wanted to start something new this year, a weekly thread of opponent specific scouting articles, Twitter threads, videos, etc. that we keep current during the week as one common place for what the Falcons are getting themselves into each week. I think it would help keep the boards cleaner and spur football discussion. Naturally, we can kick it off with the Minnesota Vikings : Head Coach: Mike Zimmer Offensive Style: Outside Zone Running with Play Action Defensive Style: Aggressive, attacking 4-3 defense 2018 Record: 8-7-1 The Way I See It: The Vikings are going to be a tough out. They are led by their defense, which has been one of the best units in the NFL the past few years, finishing no worse than #8 in DVOA since 2016. It is a unit that has grown together, with very few weaknesses. They stop the run well. They rush the passer well. They cover well. They are smart and disciplined and led by one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL in Mike Zimmer. It's going to be tough sledding. Their offense is pretty well equipped, with one of the best 1-2 punches at WR in Diggs/Thielen, Dalvin Cook being healthy and looking lethal, and Kyle Rudolph being a legit Pro Bowl TE. With the offensive scheme changes, resembling the Shanahan style we've come used to in Atlanta, it will be interesting to see how their new offense looks. The OC is Kevin Stefanski, but is buoyed by Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison, a triumvirate of offensive minds similar to our current set up. How We Match Up: Overall, this is a very equal match. Both teams have very strong, deep rosters. Going into week one, there are no major injuries to speak of. This is a true tilt of playoff caliber teams out of the gate. It will be a very good test of the OC changes on both sides and DQ taking over as DC on his side. When the Falcons are on Offense: This is going to be the match up you pay money for. Our offense is threatening at every spot. Truly threatening. The Vikings have enough talent to match up though, which is something not every team will be able to do this year. They have the LBs to keep up with Hooper and Freeman out of the backfield, the CBs to deploy a nickel look and not be intimidated, the cerebral safety that can give Matt fits, and the pass rush to tie it all together. It's going to take top notch communication along the OL (thanks Jets) to navigate this front to give Matt and the weapons time. If Sark were the OC, I would not be excited about this matchup. But with Koetter and Gang, they will be able to devise some looks that will get this group going. Thankfully, Money Matt is back because we may be settling for FGs more than we care to this week. The interesting development to watch during the week? Right tackle? Do they roll with Sambrailo or Gono? I don't think McGary gets the call this week. This is going to be a 60 minute tilt and if he was winded vs the Jags in the preseason, this isn't the time to trot him out there. Whoever it is, they will have their hands full trying to handle Griffen/Hunter on the edges. You know Zimmer will look to exploit this match up so watch out! This group will have some tough sledding, so don't be discouraged if they don't pop off a 30 point week one special to get your juices flowing. When the Falcons are on Defense: This is where the Falcons need to make up the difference. Our defense has the talent to mimic the Vikings unit. The question is execution. Are Vic and Takk ready to get after QBs? Is Debo ready to play? Rico and Neal? A lot of questions that can be answered with 60 minutes of football on Sunday. Optimistically, I think this group is ready. They showed very well in preseason. Again, it's preseason but that was our first glimpse. Outside of some initial first drive jitters/excitement, this unit showed up time and time again. There was consistent pressure, consistent run defense, and solid pass coverage. It was nice to see. What makes it tough is that week one, new OCs and scheme, you aren't scheming against the opponent just yet, but the players you are playing against and their weaknesses. Which there are more than enough on the Vikings offense. Kirk Cousins to begin with. He is a very inconsistent QB. You don't know which version you are getting, the highly accurate "YOU LIKE THAT?!" Kirk Cousins or the "I can't hit a five yard drag" Kirk Cousins. We saw this inconsistency in the preseason already. With a much more aggressive scheme and the talent to contest every throw, there is an opportunity for Kirk to get frazzled. It's going to be paramount to keep him in third and long situations and put the game in his hands more often than not. That comes down to stopping the run and controlling the LOS. Which again we have the horses to do that for a chance. The Vikings OL is very average. Pat Elflein is the clearest weak link, grading out at 43.5 per PFF last year (worst OL in the league). He's at LG. He hasn't looked much better through preseason either. On the other side, Josh Kline has been pretty mediocre himself as of late, having just given up 38 pressures last year and landed as the 53rd rated OG per PFF. Maybe a change of scenery could be beneficial, as he wasn't always a bad OL. Between them is rookie Garrett Bradbury, who I was a fan of during the draft season. I think he's a perfect fit in their offense, but DQ will be smart to repeatedly challenge the interior of this group, as there are clear weak links and none of them are above 305lbs. Force Bradbury to be cerebral and he's going to have to help Eflein, which will stress Kline. When you come equipped with a Grady Jarrett off the bus, this is the biggest opportunity to exploit, clogging lanes on run downs to prevent movement there and sending blitzes and stunts galore at this group on long down and distance situations. If they can take advantage of the Vikings OL (am I really thinking this is possible?), the Falcons defense can cause some chaos and with the luck of a turnover or two, can really put the offense in position to stretch their wings a little bit. It's going to come down to winning the LOS repeatedly. Vegas Line: Vegas has the Vikings as a 4 point favorite, with the o/u set at 47.5. Take it for what you will. Prediction: The two times we've played the Vikings under DQ, neither team has scored 3 TDs, we've lost both, with the most recent loss being a 14-9 close call with a banged up secondary. This time, fully healthy, I think the Falcons grow up a little bit in week one and show the rest of the NFL that an injury riddled 2018 isn't an indictment on who they are as a team. Just one year removed from being the only back to back postseason NFC team, this Falcons team is pissed off and looking to prove a point. I think they can do that here, scraping out a tough 24-17 victory, rightfully putting the game just out of reach with a Matt Bryant field goal.