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Rise Up...or Get Gone! Scouting the Opponent: The Minnesota Vikings

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10 minutes ago, shockerfalcon said:

Diggs is nursing a hamstring injury he was limited in practice and not in pads. Historically he has underperformed in weeks he has appeared on the injury report. 

I saw that he didn’t practice but there wasn’t a reason. Thanks for the update. 

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Man Vikings fans are a delusional bunch it seems:

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Bottom Line

The Vikings have matched up well against Atlanta the past few years when they’ve met because the Vikings have Xavier Rhodes to slow down Julio Jones, while the Viking pass rush has disrupted Matt Ryan.

Defensively the Falcons haven’t been as strong, particularly up front, and that’s helped the Vikings be reasonably successful offensively against them.

And while many are predicting the Falcons to have a better season this year, this is a game and match-up the Vikings need to win without too much problem if they’re gonna be a top contender this year.

I expect they will. 31-17.

https://www.dailynorseman.com/2019/9/4/20849193/minnesota-vikings-vs-atlanta-falcons-things-to-look-for

31-17. 14 point victory? Out the gates? Come on. 

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Mike Zimmer pulls the strings for the best blitzing football team in the NFL

USATSI_11595322_168384674_lowres.jpg?w=9

Last season, it was the Vikings’ third-down defense that was the envy of the rest of the NFL. This season, it’s their blitz packages that have been stifling opposing quarterbacks better than any other team in the league.

Minnesota has brought the blitz on 103 opponent dropbacks (25.2% of the time). On those, they’ve allowed a passer rating of 72.7 and registered 10 sacks. That’s a nice improvement over their 93.1 passer rating allowed when they don’t blitz. For a defense that has been somewhat of a scapegoat at times this season, let’s investigate what makes their blitz packages so effective.

BLITZZ-1024x575.png

The biggest thing for the Vikings’ blitzes is the element of surprise. The Vikings’ 25.2% blitz rate is actually slightly below the league average of 27.0%. They’re not adding an extra man regularly because they lack the ability to get home with four; they’re using it as a sporadic weapon in their arsenal. Because of that, their blitz packages have generated pressure a ridiculous 48.5 percent of the time (league average is 41.8 percent). When they don’t blitz, that figure is only 32.6 percent (league average is 30.0 percent).  

Drew Brees is currently the front-runner for league MVP yet no one shut him down quite the way the Vikings did. Brees finished 18-of-23 for 120 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and the Saints’ offense only mustered 23 points (P.J. Williams had a pick-six to make the final score 30-20). For much of the game, they pushed seven men in coverage and made Brees dink and dunk his way for scores. They only blitzed him three times that game, and surprisingly never on third down. When they did bring the extra man, though, even a veteran quarterback like Brees panicked. He went 1-of-3 for seven yards and an interception on those dropbacks.

That pick was a perfect example of having a blitz in your back pocket for a certain look from the opposition. On the play below, the Saints come out in empty. It was the first time they showed empty out of the huddle the whole game (outside of a goal-line play). The linebackers recognize this and immediately make the adjustment to both walk up, knowing that it affects how the offensive line sets their protection.   

VikingsBlitzSaints1.gif

The offensive line takes the bait and leaves left defensive end Stephen Weatherly unblocked as Eric Kendricks drops into coverage. Weatherly is in Brees’ face before the routes can break and the result is an errant throw.

While dialing up the right blitz at the right time is one of Mike Zimmer’s calling cards, exotic movement at the snap is another. It’s not often that he’ll bring five-plus defenders from a static look without rolling defenders behind them. Zimmer is the godfather of the double A-gap blitz (two linebackers lined up over the center), it often requires those linebackers to fly backward and cover tight ends and slots if they don’t blitz in that scheme. The play below against the Lions is a great example of the confusion that it causes.

VikingsBlitzLions1.gif

The Vikings already bluffed the blitz and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford checked the play thinking Harrison Smith was coming up top and that he’d have a one-on-one up top. In actuality, Smith was playing deep-half over the top to that side, and the one-on-one was actually the worst option on the play. Mackensie Alexander comes off the slot on the other side with Eric Wilson hauling *** behind him to rob the slot and Everson Griffen dropping to cover the tight end.

Here’s what the defenders’ real responsibilities were pre-snap:

VikingsPreSnap1-1024x610.jpg

It’s a ton of information for any quarterback to process at the snap of the ball, even for a veteran like Stafford. At the end of the day, though, blitzes still require talent to execute properly. Zimmer’s scheme couldn’t operate without defensive linemen and blitzers that can get home quickly along with defenders who can match up man-to-man behind it.

https://www.pff.com/news/pro-mike-zimmer-pulls-the-strings-for-the-best-blitzing-football-team-in-the-nfl

Having Matt is going to help, but this is going to be a long game for the OL. They are going to have to be on their game. They will miss some, naturally, but they need to win their fair share. 

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Ok here is the better Vikings writer over at Daily Norseman. For good, even keeled breakdown on the match up

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Vikings vs. Falcons Week 1 Preview: Setting The Tone

Earlier this week, I was listening to the Bill Simmons Podcast for the return of the “Guess the Lines” weekly segment he does with Cousin Sal of Jimmy Kimmel Live! fame. When they got to guessing the line of Sunday’s matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons—the Vikings are favored by 4 points, by the way—they had a pretty interesting exchange.

Simmons: Do you feel like this is one of those games where we’re gonna know for the season with both teams by the end of this game?
Sal: Is this a “Loser Leaves Town?” Is that what you want to call it?
Simmons: [Laughs] It’s like an honorary, almost, “Loser Leaves Town.” I just feel like we’re gonna have a lot of answers after this game with both teams.

For those unfamiliar, a “Loser Leaves Town” match is a wrestling trope where the loser has to leave their current division. Simmons and Sal often deem late-season matchups with this label to help “write off” a team from contention. Obviously, this analogy can’t be applied to a Week 1 matchup without a dash of facetiousness. But this game is still extremely important when it comes to shaping the 2019 season for both the Vikings and Falcons. I feel like we will know a lot more about both teams by the end of this game.

After impressive 2017 seasons that ended in playoff berths, both Minnesota and Atlanta were considered NFC favorites a year ago. Neither team lived up to the hype in 2018. The Vikings went 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs in the first year of the Kirk Cousins Experiment. Their fifth round rookie kicker got released after two games. One of their star defensive linemen missed five games with an alarming mental health issue. Their new Offensive Coordinator was fired just 13 games into his gig. Cousins couldn’t shed his “puts up big numbers but comes up small when it counts” reputation. The offensive line was atrocious. Even after all that, they still had to lay an egg at home against a team with nothing to play for to miss the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Falcons didn’t have the luxury of throwing away their chances late in the season; they stumbled right out of the gate. A series of early-season injuries ravaged their defense as they faltered to a 1-4 start. After showing signs of life and clawing their way back to .500, the Falcons promptly went on a five-game losing skid that effectively ended their season.

I think Minnesota and Atlanta both had more talent than their 2018 records would indicate. Each team fell victim to some bad bounces throughout the season. In some cases, those bad bounces were quite literal. The Vikings (33.33%) and Falcons (37.78%) had the worst fumble luck in the NFL last season. (So if you see a fumble on Sunday and it just lays there on the turf for 15 seconds like a Madden glitch, now you know why.)

Both teams have high hopes that they can reverse their fortunes and once again make some noise in the NFC playoff picture. As Ted pointed out earlier in the week, the Vikings and Falcons have a lot of similarities. So which team is going to start the 2019 season right with a not-must-win-but-still-really-nice-to-have-if-they’re-going-to-be-taken-seriously-this-year victory?

The Vikings and Falcons had the worst fumble luck in the NFL last season. So if you see a fumble on Sunday and it just lays there on the turf for 15 seconds like a Madden glitch, now you know why.

Before we get started with the regular season matchup, we should probably start with a film breakdown of some of the most important plays from the preseason for each squad.

...

And that concludes our review all of the important preseason plays.

I promise that we’ll have plenty of film review in this space as the season rolls along. But with play calling getting even more vanilla and key players participating even less, it’s nearly impossible to glean anything of substance from the exhibition games these days. Instead, we’ll preview some of the key matchups between some of those players that had a lighter workload over the past four weeks.

If Sunday’s game was a fight card, Xavier Rhodes vs. Julio Jones would probably be the main event. Rhodes and Jones have already had some good battles over the years, and Xavier has acquitted himself quite nicely. Over three games, Jones has been held to 13 catches on 21 targets for 162 yards and no scores. While Jones is still considered one of the best receivers in the NFL, the jury is out on whether #RhodesClosed is still a thing. Rhodes struggled through nagging injuries and had what was probably the worst season of his otherwise stellar career. Pro Football Focus gave him a career-low 58.2 overall grade. Passes thrown his way were completed at a 65.2% rate in 2018, also a career worst. If Rhodes is truly healthy and “back” this year, we’ll probably know by the end of September. The Vikings’ first three games are a murderer’s row of top-end receivers: after Jones on Sunday, he’ll follow it up with matchups against Davante Adams and Antonio Brown. That’s the cornerback version of warping directly to World 8 in Super Mario Bros.

Even if Rhodes holds his own against Jones again, Matt Ryan still has plenty of viable options in the passing game. Calvin Ridley had a very promising rookie year, leading the team in touchdowns and racking up 821 yards. Mohamed Sanu is always a threat to throw a touchdown on a trick play and he’s still a very good wide receiver. Tight end Austin Hooper made the Pro Bowl and amassed 660 yards on 71 catches, which was better than the production of Kyle Rudolph. Devonta Freeman is always a threat to catch passes out of the backfield as well. Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, and the rest of the back seven will have to be on top of their games as well to stop a very potent Falcons passing attack.

While there will be plenty of familiar names in the passing game, there will be some new faces in the trenches Sunday. As we know, the interior of the Vikings’ line has been completely reshuffled in hopes of not being the abomination it was last year. First round rookie Garrett Bradbury and newcomer Josh Kline have had mostly positive returns in the preseason. The hope is that Pat Elflein will perform better by moving to left guard and being healthier than last year. It looks like second year right tackle Brian O’Neill is good to go for Sunday after missing most of the preseason with an injury, which is a welcome sign.

The Minnesota Moving Company will face plenty of tough tests this season, and Week 1 will be no different. Grady Jarrett is one of the best defensive tackles in the league. Former first round pick Takkarist McKinley has 13 sacks over his first two seasons and is a popular pick among the Atlanta beat writers to have a breakout year. Pass rusher Adrian Clayborn is back in Atlanta after a quick one-year stint with the Patriots. Nobody is expecting this Vikings offensive line to be the mid-90’s Cowboys. If they can just upgrade from “complete liability” to “closer to league average,” it could make a world of difference for the Vikings’ new-look offense.

That new-look “Stefubiak” offense could have some success against Atlanta if the line holds up. Dalvin Cook looks like he’s ready to have a gigantic year with the new zone blocking scheme. (Insert “if healthy” caveat here.) The Falcons secondary should be better by default since they lost both starting safeties before Week 4 last year. But it isn’t like Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal were Legion Of Boom-level before getting hurt either. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggsshould be able to find some space against Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, and Damontae Kazee. (Yes, Diggs didn’t practice on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. But I’m just going to plug my ears and yell “LALALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU!” unless he’s actually ruled out later in the week.) Hopefully we’ll see plenty of the play action, multiple tight end sets, and rollout passes that seem to be staples of the revamped offense. I could see Irv Smith Jr. having a solid NFL debut with some mismatches in the middle of the field, especially if the Falcons send extra defenders at Thielen and Diggs.

There are plenty of new pieces in place for the Falcons offense in 2019 as well. Like Atlanta native Ludacris, Dirk Koetter is Back for the First Time in his second stint as Offensive Coordinator. On the ground, he’ll run a zone scheme that should look familiar to years past in Atlanta and that of Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak. Ryan tied for fourth most deep passes in the league last year. If anything, expect that number to go up under Koetter, who is known for his penchant for taking shots deep.

The biggest change on Atlanta’s offense will be along their offensive line, which the team invested in very heavily. They used two first round picks on offensive linemen this year, taking guard Chris Lindstrom (a player that was high on Vikings fans’ wishlists before the draft) and tackle Kaleb McGary. Lindstrom is slated to be the starter at right guard next to Alex Mack, still one of the better centers in the game. (Side note: does anybody else think of that 90’s Nickelodeon showevery time they see or hear Alex Mack’s name? No, it’s just me? Fair enough.) Jake Matthews remains a very reliable left tackle, but the other two positions on the offensive line still appear to be up for grabs. McGary is battling Matt Gono for the starting right tackle position. Since Gono was the only Falcons player limited in practice on Wednesday, it would appear that the rookie might have the edge to start on Sunday. Left guard will be either Jamon Brown or James Carpenter. Kelsey Conway shared this amazing stat: if Carpenter and McGary start on Sunday, it will be the first time in the common draft era that a team started five first-round picks on the offensive line.

The Vikings may have caught a break by playing the Falcons right away before they have their offensive line solidified. I like the idea of Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen, and Everson Griffen giving the youngsters a baptism by fire on Sunday. The other six(!) defensive linemen currently on the Vikings roster could rotate in and do some damage too, especially if they can force Atlanta into some obvious passing downs.

This appears to be a pretty evenly matched game between two talented teams, which means it could all come down to—gulp—kicking. After messing around with some less-than-ideal options—including none other than Blair Walsh—the Falcons finally came to their senses and brought back the immortal Matt Bryant for his 18th season. We all know about the ridiculous kicking/holding/snapping carousel the Vikings have been on throughout the preseason. Hopefully, the ride has come to a stop with Dan Bailey kicking and Britton Colquitt taking holding and punting duties. Will I watch every Bailey kick through my fingers like I’m a grade schooler that snuck into a showing of It Chapter Two? Of course I will, especially for any from the right hash mark. However, I’m oddly confident that the team has finally settled on the right combination there.

Will I watch every Bailey kick through my fingers like I’m a grade schooler that snuck into a showing of It Chapter Two? Of course I will, especially for any from the right hash mark.

Falling to 0-1 is never good, but it could be especially daunting in the divisions these teams are in. The NFC North and NFC South are arguably two of the best in football. The NFC itself is stacked compared to the AFC. Every win is going to be hard to come by and incredibly crucial toward clinching a possible playoff berth. Again, there’s no such thing as a must-win game until it literally decides whether you advance or not. But as far as season openers go, it’s hard to get much higher stakes for two teams with similar talent levels and aspirations. We could very well be pointing to this game in tiebreaker scenarios at the end of the season.

I think this one will be a battle throughout, but I like the Vikings in a close one on Sunday. Hopefully the loser of this game leaves town back to Atlanta, and not to their huge divisional game in Green Bay next week.

Prediction

Vikings 24, Falcons 23

 

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2 hours ago, vel said:

Ok here is the better Vikings writer over at Daily Norseman. For good, even keeled breakdown on the match up

Excellent read. From the Daily Noresman....and not written by a fan.

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39 minutes ago, Tim Mazetti said:

 

This man is ready!!! Dirk said he is keeping some of the Shan and Sark game. I wonder just how much? Seems to me other teams are going to have to figure out what game is coming at them. Might be advantageous. Is Kyle’s play coming, or is it Dirk’s? It’s going to be interesting to see how the Vikings react:

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3 minutes ago, SoldMySoul said:

This man is ready!!! Dirk said he is keeping some of the Shan and Sark game. I wonder just how much? Seems to me other teams are going to have to figure out what game is coming at them. Might be advantageous. Is Kyle’s play coming, or is it Dirk’s? It’s going to be interesting to see how the Vikings react:

The available info this off season has indicated that MR2 will have much input into this offence.

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4 minutes ago, Tim Mazetti said:

The available info this off season has indicated that MR2 will have much input into this offence.

I can see more no huddle coming if that’s the case. 

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1 hour ago, Ergo Proxy said:

@vel If they try to roll that coverage with a disguise as man pre-snap? Ridley will destroy them.

Let’s hope so. Someone will have to step up. 

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1 minute ago, SoldMySoul said:

I can see more no huddle coming if that’s the case. 

Yep, me too. I think that is important.

Matt has enough game planning and experience in games to be Peyton on the field.

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On 9/5/2019 at 11:55 AM, vel said:

It’s a ton of information for any quarterback to process at the snap of the ball, even for a veteran like Stafford.

Now that is a scheme drawn up that enthralls me. Dam well executed.

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15 hours ago, SoldMySoul said:

This man is ready!!! Dirk said he is keeping some of the Shan and Sark game. I wonder just how much? Seems to me other teams are going to have to figure out what game is coming at them. Might be advantageous. Is Kyle’s play coming, or is it Dirk’s? It’s going to be interesting to see how the Vikings react:

Just don’t get one-dimensional. Keep running the ball so they don’t tee off on Ryan which also allows him to set up big passing plays. 

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41 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Just don’t get one-dimensional. Keep running the ball so they don’t tee off on Ryan which also allows him to set up big passing plays. 

No doubt!! I just don’t want to see the slants, nickel and dime plays for little yardage.  If those aren’t working do something else. 

I am on the side where I believe our offense is going to show out! The Vikings will not know how to deal with such a force. I don’t see a low score borefest from our offense. I am not saying a particularly high scoring fest, but I do see and am hopeful for mid twenties.

I am sick to death of hearing how the Saints win the division. With our experienced coaching staff and roster there is no reason we cannot take the whole thing.

For the doubters get ready because it’s coming!!!!

Edited by SoldMySoul
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9 minutes ago, SoldMySoul said:

No doubt!! I just don’t want to see the slants, nickel and dime plays for little yardage.  If those aren’t working do something else. 

I am on the side where I believe our offense is going to show out! The Vikings will not know how to deal with such a force. I don’t see a low score borefest from our offense. I am not saying a particularly high scoring fest, but I do see and am hopeful for mid twenties.

I am sick to death of hearing how the Saints win the division. With our experienced coaching staff and roster there is no reason we cannot take the whole thing.

For the doubters get ready because it’s coming!!!!

I’m with you brother. Always Need a little luck, but we have a better roster today than we did when we surprised everyone and went to SB 51. 

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1 minute ago, Vandy said:

I’m with you brother. Always Need a little luck, but we have a better roster today than we did when we surprised everyone and went to SB 51. 

We are going to shock multitudes this year!!! All the haters and Taints cry babies are going to be amazed!!!

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