EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The Vikings defense has been stingy in allowing yards and points this season. Minnesota ranks fifth in both categories, having allowed averages of 290.4 yards and 17.7 points in 11 games.
Part of the defense's success has been yielding the fewest "explosive plays" in the NFL so far this season. An explosive play is categorized as a run of 11 or more yards or a pass that gains 15-plus yards.
According to NFL Matchup, the Vikings have allowed 63 such plays in 2017:
The unit will face a challenge in all accounts this weekend from a Falcons offense that has taken flight in recent weeks.
Atlanta is sixth in yards per game (373.4) and 11th in points per game (24.1) this season but is coming off a 516-yard day against Tampa Bay and has averaged 31.7 points during a three-game win streak.
The Falcons have had 28 explosive plays in their past three outings, and points have frequently followed. Some scoring drives have thrived on multiple explosive plays, and others have ended with them.
On Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Falcons scored on a 51-yard pass from Mohamed Sanu to Julio Jones, a 25-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Jones and a 14-yard run by Tevin Coleman.
"We're getting ready to play a really good team on the road," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "Offensively they're very explosive – got great receivers, runners, offensive line plays well. Obviously Julio Jones is a tough matchup."
Here are four other topics that Zimmer discussed Wednesday.
1. 'One week at a time'
Zimmer announced last Friday after Case Keenum improved to 7-2 as a starter that Keenum would start at Atlanta.
"We're just going to one week at a time," Zimmer said. "That's just the way it is. I'm not looking to pull him, but every week is a different week in this league."
Keenum completed 21 of 30 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns and a 9-yard rushing score in the Vikings 30-23 win over the Lions on Thanksgiving.
Keenum had a November to remember, completing 69 of 97 passes for 866 yards and threw seven touchdowns against two interceptions for a passer rating of 114.0 in three games (all wins).
2. Freeman likely back
Falcons running back Devonta Freeman rushed only two times for three yards before leaving the game against the Cowboys. He missed the following two weeks but has passed through the concussion protocol and is likely to return against Minnesota.
Freeman has 515 rush yards and five scores on 116 carries this season.
Tevin Coleman is leading the Falcons with 539 yards and five rushing touchdowns on 112 carries.
"The backs are a little bit different," Zimmer said. "[Freeman is] a physical runner, good start and stop. They're both good out of the backfield, both have excellent speed. We're going to have to pay attention to who's in."
3. The Vikings RB tandem
Minnesota has a backfield tandem of its own in Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, who will be playing in his hometown Sunday.
Murray and McKinnon have helped the Vikings average 133.9 rushing yards per game since Week 5, which is sixth in the NFL in that span.
After carrying the ball just 14 times for 38 yards in Weeks 1-4, Murray has toted the rock at least 15 times in six of the past seven games. He has 458 yards and five touchdowns since Week 5.
"Latavius is running the ball well. I think he is starting to feel a lot more healthy or comfortable, whatever it is. He's continued to do a good job, and that will be important this week that we possess the football.
4. Don't tell him, show him
The Vikings (9-2) enter Week 13 as the team with the second-best record in the NFC and a three-game lead over Detroit (6-5) in the NFC North.
The Falcons (7-4) are sixth overall and chasing New Orleans and Carolina (both 8-3) in the NFC South.
If Minnesota handles its business, the Vikings could stay in line for a first-round bye and the opportunity to host a playoff game.
Zimmer briefly mentioned that in his post-game victory speech in Detroit but has reminded players their focus to the next opponent, the defending NFC Champions and 2016 NFL MVP (Ryan).
"That is everybody's deal, isn't it? Go out and win as many games as you can and try to get in and play as many games as you can at home," Zimmer said. "But we have to win and we have to take one game at a time. Talking about it doesn't do anything."