The Minnesota Vikings are heading south for a clash with the division-leading Atlanta Falcons on Sunday (11/5/23) at 1 p.m. EST. Get Vikings vs. Falcons odds, picks and predictions below as our best bet is Falcons -4.5.
Vikings vs. Falcons Prediction
With both teams 4-4, they’re both making a change at quarterback – for different reasons. Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins was having quite possibly his best year, with a passer rating well over 100 and a league-high 18 touchdown passes compared to just five interceptions. But an Achilles tear ended his season.
The Vikings turn to Jaren Hall, a rookie coming off of a phenomenal year at BYU where he tossed 31 touchdowns and just six picks. Hall came in after the Cousins injury late in the Vikings’ recent win over the Packers. He completed three of his four passes as he protected a sizable lead. Hall, a fifth-round pick, did not expect to see action this season. He’ll play much earlier than anyone imagined.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith decided midway through last week’s game against the Tennessee Titans to make the switch at quarterback to Taylor Heinicke. He stepped in for the struggling Desmond Ridder. Ridder has been one of the the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL this year. After falling behind 14-3 at halftime to the Titans in Will Levis’s pro debut, Smith made his move.
The Falcons scored 20 points behind Heinicke. And while they weren’t able to come all the way back, the Titans scored another pair of touchdowns, there were encouraging signs. Smith subsequently named Heinicke the starter for Sunday’s game.
This gives us a great opportunity to back the Falcons, whose overall perceived value has definitely been degraded by Ridder’s total ineptitude. Heinicke isn’t the next Patrick Mahomes, but he’s a serviceable player who can make reasonable throws and limit mistakes. That makes him an enormous upgrade over Ridder – much more than sportsbooks or the public are realizing.
This Atlanta team is stacked with offensive weapons. They have an improved defense too, which has kept them in games as Ridder has struggled. Now, they’ll have a chance to play a complete game as the offense will be able to at least carry its own weight.
At home, against a team dealing with the loss of their own franchise quarterback, the Falcons are a relative no-brainer here. 4.5 isn’t a perfect number, so definitely be sure to shop around and see what’s available. But Atlanta should have no issue winning by more than a touchdown if Heinicke can be the player we saw last Sunday, and during his tenure with Washington.
Vikings vs. Falcons Prediction: Falcons -4.5
Vikings vs. Falcons Best Odds
The Falcons are -4.5 favorites at home, or -225 on the moneyline. The Vikings are +180 to win, while the total is set at 37 with -110 odds on both sides.
Vikings vs. Falcons Key Injuries
The main injury is of course the season-ending Achilles tear for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Falcons wideout Drake London is dealing with a groin injury but is expected to play.
Vikings vs. Falcons Key Matchups
Both offenses will have a completely new look this weekend. Let’s dig into some positional matchups that could play out differently than they might have just a week or two ago.
Vikings Rushing Offense vs. Falcons Ground Defense
The Vikings will need to find rushing success in order to compete with the Falcons in this game. As good as Hall could potentially be, it’s going to be tough for him to shoulder the load on the road in his first NFL start. A good effort on the ground would go a long way toward making his job easier by keeping him ahead of the sticks and also opening up passing lanes.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Minnesota in this area. Atlanta’s defense grades first in the league in rushing defense EPA, and they’ll likely load the box until Hall forces them to operate otherwise. The Vikings grade second in PFF’s run blocking grade, but second to last in their score for rushers. Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers have really struggled. Akers scored the team’s first rushing touchdown of the year against the Packers, and both are well below 4 yards per carry on the year.
Falcons Air Game vs. Vikings Pass Defense
The biggest change in the Falcons’ offense this week should be that they’re able to achieve more through the air. But the upgrade to Heinicke is doubly vital as it will allow them to run the ball more effectively with their standout duo of Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier. Defenses will have to respect the pass more- in theory. To make this potential boost a reality, Heinecke has to prove he’s capable of slicing and dicing. He’ll have a great situation with which to do so. The Falcons’ offensive line has been pretty solid, and the versatile pass-catching group led by Drake London, Kyle Pitts and even Robinson is a quarterback’s dream.
The Vikings will create a very pass-friendly environment for Heinicke. They’re first in the league in blitz rate but just 17th in achieving pressure. Overall, they’re 28th in pass defense DVOA and 24th as per EPA. But PFF does consider their secondary, highlighted by safeties Camryn Bynum and Harrison Smith, to be the league’s 10th-best coverage unit, yet another indictment on the failures of the pass rush.