In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It's hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I'm sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs. Falcons preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.
With kickoff fast approaching, here are a few final thoughts on today's Vikings-Falcons contest.
How to Take In Today's Game Game Time: 3:25 p.m. CT TV:FOXRadio:Vikings Radio Network; KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130Mobile:NFL Mobile (exclusively on Verizon)
Jennings Can Be Calming Influence for BridgewaterIn a feature story on Vikings WR Greg Jennings that appears in today's game program, Vikings GM Rick Spielman explains that the signing of Jennings in free agency last year turned out to be a great benefit for the team as it began the development of WR Cordarrelle Patterson. Selected with a first-round pick, Patterson played just one year of Division I college football and, while extremely gifted athletically, was rather raw when it came to the finer points of playing the receiver position.
"Greg is the ultimate pros is pro," Spielman said. "I don't know if there is anyone who knows the game in that position better than Jennings, so to have a player such as Jennings on your roster and to bring (Cordarrelle) Patterson under his wing, I think that's a huge part of this as well."
That same line of thinking with Jennings can now apply to another rookie – Teddy Bridgewater. And that line of thinking is especially relevant today as Bridgewater makes his first career start.
To date, Bridgewater has handled every step of his pro career with aplomb, so there's no reason to think he'll need any special care. But if things get tight or if adversity strikes during the game, the Vikings can rest a little easier knowing there's a wise veteran like Jennings on the field with the young quarterback.
Bridgewater's Mobility Can Lead to WR OpportunitiesBridgewater has mobility, and often times the thought is that this mobility can be used to pick up yardage by running when nothing is open. But quarterback mobility can also open up opportunities for receivers. By buying an extra moment or two, the quarterback is actually giving the receivers an extra chance to break open.
Even if Atlanta's secondary has the Vikings receivers covered up initially, the Vikings receivers must keep in mind that they have an extra chance to break open because Bridgewater has the ability to buy some time with his mobility.
Atlanta hasn't won outside since November 2012Some will file this in the "meaningless statistic" column while others will use it as a legitimate angle, but the Falcons have not won a game played outside since November 25, 2012 (at Tampa Bay) – seven straight outdoor tries without a victory. Atlanta was just 1-7 on the road last year and they lost their only road contest this year – at Cincinnati.
Whatever the causations are for Atlanta's road woes, they do have one piece of good news today in that TCF Bank Stadium has artificial surface, which means the high-flying and high-speed offense won't be slowed by the natural grass.
Regardless of it all, the Vikings have made a point of establishing an advantage in their home games on the campus of the University of Minnesota, and today represents the next opportunity to get rolling in that direction.
Homecoming for HagemanRa'Shede Hageman isn't in college anymore, but today is a homecoming game for the Falcons defensive tackle. Hageman, who was born in Lansing, Michigan but lists Minneapolis, Minnesota as his hometown, played college football at the University of Minnesota. He was selected in the second round (No. 37 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Falcons and is listed as the No. 2 DT behind starter Tyson Jackson.
Hageman played at TCF Bank Stadium as a member of the Gophers and likely watched gleefully yesterday from his Minneapolis hotel room as his Gophers squad defeated the University of Michigan handily to take possession of The Little Brown Jug for the first time since 2005.
For his part, Hageman doesn't seem to be too wrapped up about playing in his college stadium today as a member of the Falcons.
"I actually was there when it first got built," Hageman said this week of the venue for today's Vikings-Falcons game. "We played Air Force the first game. It's a great environment, great facility. And, just look forward to going to Minnesota and playing against [the Vikings]."
While Hageman has downplayed the homecoming aspect of today's game, you can be certain there will be many Minnesota football fans watching today's game who will remember Hageman's outstanding play as a member of the Gophers.