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Vikings vs. Falcons: Fascinating Four for Week 13


lostnmexico
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The Falcons will take on two of the NFC’s finest teams in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium over the next week. Before they face New Orleans in a long-awaited divisional clash, Dan Quinn’s side will encounter the Minnesota Vikings. It’s an excellent matchup between two formidable teams. The Vikings are one of the most well-rounded, well-coached teams in the league. An opportunistic offense and stout defense makes them extremely difficult to beat. Under Mike Zimmer’s guidance, they are more than capable of playing a home game in February.

After defeating numerous second and third tier teams in the NFC, it’s time for the Falcons to make their mark against top tier opponents. They will have that opportunity in four of their last five games. It’s something that this team must embrace. This is a group that beat New Orleans, Carolina, and Denver handily in three consecutive games last season.

They will likely have to do it without Desmond Trufant, who suffered a concussion last week. To not have one of their most consistent defensive players is problematic against an explosive offense. Quinn preaches about his team being resilient. They will need to prove it again on Sunday.

Covering the best wide receiver duo in the league

Losing Trufant is going to be a massive blow in this matchup. It’s one thing to lose him against an explosive wide receiver tandem in Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Not having him available against two crafty route runners makes a difficult matchup even more challenging. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have put defensive backs on skates all season long. Both wide receivers can create separation with their nifty footwork and explosiveness out of breaks. Thielen is the only player to catch five passes or more in every game this season. Diggs’ knack for playing big and making contested catches has turned him into a matchup nightmare. The dynamic duo is the main reason behind Minnesota’s offensive success.

 

It’s difficult to envision how the Falcons are going to contain either receiver. Brian Poole should be active following a back injury that knocked him out of last week’s game. His return gives them an experienced nickel corner to cover Thielen. According to Pro Football Focus, Thielen runs 55 percent of his routes in the slot. That is where he does most of his damage. In the Super Bowl, the secondary struggled mightily against New England’s trio of slick route runners. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Malcolm Mitchell repeatedly torched them. Poole was on the receiving end of several big plays. His stiffness when changing direction can be exploited.  It may be a blessing in disguise that Poole is less than 100%.  We may match up better with Rico playing nickle and Kazee at FS!

The other major concern involves handling Diggs. Robert Alford primarily lines up on the right side. Will Quinn give him the freedom to shadow the rising star? The possibility of seeing C.J. Goodwin try to run step for step with Diggs is a scary proposition. Alford is coming off his worst game of the season, as Evans regularly beat him. For all his inconsistency, Alford can hold his own against top receivers that don’t hold a distinct size advantage over him. The enigmatic cornerback elevated his game following Trufant’s season-ending pectoral injury. It would be wise for Quinn to focus on matchups rather than stick to positional structure. They need Alford’s agility and physicality to limit Diggs. No wide receiver is currently making contested catches at a higher rate than him. A battle-tested player like Alford should track him instead of using a former wide receiver that hasn’t started a game in his entire career.

Julio Jones vs. Xavier Rhodes

This is the first of two high-profile matchups for Julio Jones. Before facing hotshot rookie Marshon Lattimore, he will be challenged by Xavier Rhodes. It’s the type of wide receiver-cornerback matchup that will capture your attention on every passing play. Rhodes is coming off a tough game against Marvin Jones. While he played like his usual physical self, Jones made several tough catches over him. Rhodes looked rattled at times. Committing penalties isn’t anything new to him. He was penalized eleven times last season. For him to receive multiple penalties and give up big plays was alarming for one of the most reliable cornerbacks in the league.

Rhodes loves getting under wide receivers’ skin. Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne wrote an excellent feature about the star cornerback. His tough upbringing helped develop an aggressive mentality towards locking up opposing number one wide receivers. Zimmer won’t hesitate to put Rhodes strictly on Jones, especially after his recent explosion. They can’t afford to leave Trae Waynes or Terence Newman isolated against the superstar wide receiver. Jones is too quick and physically imposing for either player. With Steve Sarkisian starting to make him the focal point of the offense, that will put added pressure on opposing defenses.

As Josh Norman recently said, you can’t take a play off against Jones. That will only result in severe consequences. Rhodes will have to play composed as well. Jones does his best work at the line of scrimmage. Both studs will battle each other and look to gain a physical edge. How the refs call it could be a game changer. We can only hope the officiating crew is similar to the group from the Monday night game against Seattle. They allowed both teams to play extremely physical. Jones never gets fazed by any matchup, but it should be noted that Rhodes did well against him in 2015. He’ll need to mix up his routes to get Rhodes off balance. Breaking out the vicious pinch route that destroyed Tampa Bay may be required.

Figuring out Vic Beasley

The reigning NFL sack king has endured a strange season. After recording four sacks in his first six games, Beasley has failed to produce one during Atlanta’s three game winning streak. He didn’t earn a single hit against Dallas or Tampa Bay. Beasley did show flashes against Seattle, when chasing down Russell Wilson. The big story about his drop off in production comes from a positional change. Duke Riley suffered a torn meniscus against New England, which caused the coaching staff to shift Beasley around. They moved him to strong side linebacker and found some success against the Jets. It hasn’t translated into any substantial difference following that victory.

 

Am I the only one who things Beasley will explode in this game and blow up the Minnesota Line?

Edited by lostnmexico
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Of the top 300 players in receiving yards, guess which one leads in fumbles?

Yep, it's Adam Thielen. (side note: you know what to do, Keanu)

I really don't see how Stefon Diggs, who hasn't had a 1000 yards or more than 5TDs in a season thus far in his career, is part of the "best WR duo in the NFL"

I know everyone is fixated on the passing game because of what Julio did last week, Try being out, and Keenum playing well recently... but it's a fool's errand to overlook the run game in this one. In the past few matchups against the Vikes, they totally ran all over our D & that was a huge part of them winning the last two.

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In my opinion the Falcons should have Alford follow Thielen into the slot and play Goodwin on Diggs. Aflord actually played extremely well when matched up against Edelman in the SB. In fact, other than that ridiculous catch that Alford almost picked, Alford shut Edelman down completely. 

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