The Vikings are kicking off the 2019 season in front of the home crowd by hosting the Atlanta Falcons at noon (CT) Sunday.
Atlanta finished 7-9 in 2018 and did not make the playoffs in a season where Matt Ryan was sacked 42 times.
Falcons Digital Managing Editor Matthew Tabeek joined the Minnesota Vikings Podcast this week and discussed the to-do list for the Falcons heading into the season.
"Optimism is high (right now), but there were a lot of boxes to check off this offseason," Tabeek said. "[Head coach] Dan Quinn made substantial changes along this coaching staff, and then they obviously addressed the offensive line.
"The first day of free agency they signed James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, and then in the draft, they drafted two first rounders (Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary). As good of a season as Matt Ryan had last year statistically, he was also hit a lot and sacked 42 times, and that was something at the top of the list amongst a grocery list of things to do."
Experts across the internet submitted their predictions to all NFL games ahead of the much-anticipated Week 1 slate.
Let's see what is expected from the Vikings in their Week 1 matchup:
Vikings 34, Falcons 17, Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com
Dalvin Cook's _arms quietly made the case for Preseason MVP last month._ New Vikings maestro Gary Kubiak could make the case for Assistant Coach of the Year in the coming weeks. Kubiak, Minnesota's assistant head coach/offensive advisor, has something better than the coordinator title: hiring power. Kubiak brought offensive line coach/running game coordinator Rick Dennison (who spent two seasons with Kubiak in Denver) to Minnesota, and their success building strong running games and improving line play is nearly without equal this century. The Vikings, with first-round center Garrett Bradbury, have enough O-line talent to transform a major weakness into a strength, making Kirk Cousins' life easier.
This matchup sets up as a terrific first showcase for these new Vikings. The Falcons' defense flies around, but it is often soft up front under Coach Dan Quinn. Atlanta's defense also has a habit of starting the season slowly. Beating Matt Ryan and friends usually requires a shootout, and the Vikings are now built to win high-scoring affairs.
*Falcons 26, Vikings 23, Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports *
This might be the toughest Week 1 game to pick. Minnesota is really well-rounded, andKirk Cousins _and Co. will have the benefit of opening at home. The Vikings defense is also for real. All that said, Atlanta has the bigger and better weapons on its best day. This one might come back to bite me, but I'm going with a Matt Ryan-led upset to start the Falcons' season._
Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins will have renewed energy, as both offenses have upgraded their lines and have good running games to set up better downfield passing. This game comes down to which defense will be positioned to make the game-changing sacks or big plays off takeaways. Trust Minnesota's star-studded, older group at home vs. Atlanta's healthier-but-younger one on the road.
These teams play in equally impressive, relatively new stadiums, and they are equally difficult to project as they enter the season. The Falcons and Vikings both have reasons for optimism, but they play in two of the NFL's toughest divisions. A good start in 2019 is vital for both after similarly disappointing 2018 seasons, too. Even though Atlanta is on the road, it has the better quarterback and, at this point, the more athletic defense. We'll take Matt Ryan's team in a close game.
Vikings 24, Falcons 23, Bleacher Report Staff
Both the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons disappointed last season, but most of Minnesota's struggles came in big prime-time games. The Vikes were actually 6-1-1 straight up and 5-2-1 against the spread in [noon (CT)] Sunday kickoffs, which might partly explain why they're laying more than a field goal for Sunday's opener against Atlanta.
Still, the majority of our analysts aren't on board.
"Maybe it's a lack of trust in a Vikings team that raised disappointment to an art form in 2018," Gary Davenport said. "Maybe it's that I think with Deion Jones and Keanu Neal healthy, the Falcons are a better team than they showed a year ago. Or maybe it's a matter of giving more than a field goal in a Week 1 game expected to be pretty close. Whatever the reason (it's that last one), I'll take Atlanta and the points."
Brent Sobleski agrees. The Falcons had a tied-for-league-low five wins ATS last season, and a talented Atlanta team isn't getting much respect considering the defense is healthier and the interior offensive line looks to be much improved.
This is a tricky spread in a tricky game to handicap, so you might be better off focusing elsewhere. But if you need action here, give the replenished Falcons a shot with four points in your back pocket.
Falcons 24, Vikings 21, Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk
Vikings 24, Falcons 21, Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
The new-look Vikings offense starts at home against a team that could go either way. Since it's not a night game, Minnesota and quarterback Kirk Cousins should be fine.
Falcons 23, Vikings 16, Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
This one comes down to Matt Ryan against Kick Cousins for me. I think Ryan has a big edge. The Falcons will be better on defense this season, which will show up here. Falcons will win a tough road game.