The Atlanta Falcons look to extend their winning streak to two games today, as the 2-8 Minnesota Vikings head south to take on the Dirty Birds in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have had an up-and-down season so far, winning four of their last five games to move their record to 6-4 on the season and are coming off a 23-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Meanwhile, the Vikings have been terrible this season and are currently riding a two game losing streak. As if things couldn’t get any worse for Minnesota, star running back Adrian Peterson, who is currently seventh in the NFL in rushing yards with 872, will not play due to a high ankle sprain.
In order for the Falcons to ensure a victory over the Vikings today, quarterback Matt Ryan must effectively dissect a Vikings’ pass defense that has been less than stellar so far this season, giving up 259 yards through the air per game. Ryan has been hot in the last few weeks, throwing for over 300 yards in Atlanta’s last two games against the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans, so it’s imperative that Ryan takes advantage of the momentum that has been building up over the last few games and converts it into some big plays on the field. Expect Ryan to throw at least three touchdowns in today’s game, with one going to Tony Gonzalez and at least one hitting Roddy White.
Defensively, the Falcons need to just avoid Christian Ponder having a “Welcome to the NFL” game. Ponder has played decently so far this year, throwing for 955 yards and 5 touchdowns with 6 interceptions, but Ponder’s ability to make big plays so far this season has come with defenses fearing big runs by Adrian Peterson. With Peterson out and Toby Gerhart taking his place, the Falcons know that it’s all on Ponder’s shoulders today. Add to the fact that Ponder has been hurting over the last few weeks (listed as probable with a knee injury), and the result could be a tough game for Viking fans to watch.
Game Preview: The Falcons win this one easily thanks to a big second half, but the Vikings don’t just lay down and die. Minnesota keeps up with the Falcons in the first half just like the Titans did in the second half with Atlanta last week, trailing by just four points at halftime thanks to a touchdown pass by Ponder to former Falcon Michael Jenkins and a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell. However, the Falcons defense steps up in the second half, stripping the ball out of Toby Gerhart’s hands on Minnesota’s drive of the third quarter, which is later turned into seven points thanks to a 23-yard run by Michael Turner. A three-and-out by the Vikings on the offense puts them in a dangerous spot, which becomes very harmful when Matt Ryan hits Tony Gonzalez on a 23-yard pass that sets up another touchdown by Turner. Falcons 34 Vikings 10
Passing: Matt Ryan has a great game against Minnesota, throwing for 285 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 INTs.
Rushing: Michael Turner gets the ground game going early and ends up with 101 yards on 21 carries with 2 touchdowns.
Receiving: Tony Gonzalez proves yet again why he’s a future Hall of Famer, making 5 receptions for 63 yards and 1 touchdown.
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