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NFL Expert Picks: Vikings Fly South to Face Falcons as Road Underdogs

As the league approaches the halfway point of the 2023 campaign, nearly one-third of its teams have either confirmed to start or will possibly start quarterbacks this week who weren't originally starting at the beginning of the year.

Five of those 10 QBs are rookies: Minnesota's Jaren Hall, Tennessee's Will Levis, Chicago's Tyson Bagent, Las Vegas' Aidan O'Connell and Arizona's Clayton Tune. The other five are veterans who have played at least three seasons: Atlanta's Taylor Heinicke, Cleveland's P.J. Walker, Indianapolis' Gardner Minshew, the New York Jets' Zach Wilson and the Los Angeles Rams' Brett Rypien.

Hall, a fifth-round pick from BYU, saw his first NFL action with the Vikings last week in Green Bay after Kirk Cousins suffered a torn Achilles in the fourth quarter. The 25-year-old – who backed up the aforementioned Wilson for two seasons in college – finished 3-of-4 passing for 23 yards, including a 16-yard strike to tight end T.J. Hockenson for a first down.

Hall spent Monday as the Vikings lone healthy quarterback on the active roster. On Tuesday, Minnesota acquired Joshua Dobbs and a conditional seventh-round pick from Arizona ahead of the trade deadline in exchange for a sixth-round pick. Dobbs was acquired in late August and named the Cardinals starter at the beginning of the season in place of an injured Kyler Murray. Dobbs threw for 1,569 yards and eight scores in eight games.

When the Vikings visit the Falcons on Sunday, both Hall and Heinicke will be making their first regular-season starts with their new teams. Minnesota and Atlanta have met 32 times in their history, with the Vikings holding a 20-12 advantage. Each side has won a playoff game against each other. Minnesota is 8-7 on the road against Atlanta.

The Vikings have won four of the past five games against the Falcons, with Atlanta snapping the streak with a 40-23 victory in Minnesota on Oct. 18, 2020.

Let's see who the experts are picking to win the game:

Vikings 18, Falcons 16 – Brooke Cersosimo,

At first blush, this game feels as though it could catapult these teams, who are each working through major changes at the quarterback position, in different directions. Atlanta turns to a likable journeyman in Taylor Heinicke, who has rallied teams midway through past seasons and has the talent around him to do it again. Rookie Jaren Hall will likely get the start for Minnesota, with newly acquired Joshua Dobbs waiting in the wings. Man, both of these rosters feature talented playmakers on offense, and it's a matter of which quarterback can be the best point guard. Any sane person would take the home team with the veteran quarterback, but two months into this thing, surprises still seem to hit me in the mouth. So, sure – give me the Vikings. I can imagine them making just enough plays on both sides of the ball to eke out a win.

Falcons 27, Vikings 13 – Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

The Vikings will start rookie Jaren Hall in this game, which will be a challenge for their offense. Atlanta could be making a change at quarterback as well since Desmond Ridder was benched last week. The Falcons will limit Hall and win this game — no matter who plays quarterback for them.

Falcons 23, Vikings 16 – Staff, Bleacher Report

On Tuesday, the Vikings acquired seven-year veteran quarterback Joshua Dobbs from the Arizona Cardinals, but they'll prepare rookie Jaren Hall to start against the Atlanta Falcons.

Obviously, Dobbs needs time to learn the Vikings playbook, so it makes sense for Minnesota to start Hall, who's been with the team since the offseason. The rookie signal-caller has a tough matchup with the Falcons eighth-ranked pass defense.

Yes, Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Will Levis threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns against the Falcons last week, but the Kentucky product came into the NFL as a far more promising prospect than Hall, a fifth-round pick out of BYU.

Our crew unanimously sided with the Falcons, and [Bleacher Report NFL analyst Maurice] Moton isn't worried about Atlanta's change at quarterback.

"The Falcons will start Taylor Heinicke over Desmond Ridder, which is a move that may help them string together some wins starting with the Vikings on Sunday," Moton said.

"Between Weeks 6 and 7, Ridder turned the ball over six times with three interceptions and three fumbles. Heinicke doesn't have Ridder's upside, but he'll protect the football and should be able to make timely throws to wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts while running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier grind out yards on the ground.

"Hall won't have the same rookie success as Levis did last week. The Falcons defense bounces back with a couple of turnovers and pulls away from the Vikings to win comfortably."

Falcons 24, Vikings 20 – Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

The Falcons could by choice stick with Taylor Heinicke over Desmond Ridder after his strong comeback passing effort in Nashville. Minnesota's run defense is so-so, so the Falcons can get back to their rushing-first winning formula at home in the dome. Meanwhile … the Vikings won't have the same answers in the passing game without Justin Jefferson.

Falcons 24, Vikings 17 – Bill Bender, Sporting News

Yet another early-window game with backup quarterbacks. Jaren Hall replaced Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Taylor Heinicke replaced Falcons starter Desmond Ridder in Week 8. The Falcons are 3-1 S/U at home, but they might want to keep tabs on Jordan Addison – who has five TD catches in Minnesota's last four games. Both teams turn the ball over too much, so we'll stick with the home team.

3 of 7 experts pick the Vikings, The MMQB

0 of 8 experts (2 of 10 total had not submitted) pick the Vikings, ESPN

"Straight-up consensus" from seven experts: Falcons, Bleacher Report

1 of 11 experts pick the Vikings, The Athletic