The 2019 NFL season kicked off on Thursday night with the Green Bay Packers knocking off the Chicago Bears. The opening weekend will continue on Sunday with a full slate of games. The Minnesota Vikings are set to host the Atlanta Falcons in one of those games in a matchup of two teams that are looking for huge bounce-back seasons in 2019. Both the Falcons and Vikings have the talent to make the playoffs this season, but there are a lot of very talented teams in the NFC.
Minnesota finished the 2018 regular season with a record of 8-7-1 to finish in second place in the NFC North. The Vikings were the betting favorites to win the division a season ago, but they were a major disappointment. Minnesota returns much of the same roster from a season ago, and some coaching changes should help them improve.
Atlanta went 7-9 a season ago and was never a threat to make the playoffs. The Falcons did finish the season by winning their last three games, and they believe they will be better in 2019. The Minnesota Vikings are four-point favorites over the Falcons in this game.
Falcons Will Need to Defend
The Atlanta Falcons have been trying to build up their defense in the last few seasons, but it is still their biggest weakness. The Falcons were in the bottom half of the league in most defensive categories a season ago, and they face a tough test in the season opener. Atlanta did record 37 sacks in 2018, and that might be their key to success this season. Safety Damontae Kazee had seven interceptions a season ago, and the Vikings are unlikely to throw the ball his way much in this game.
The Falcons made news earlier this weekend by signing receiver Julio Jones to a long contract extension. Jones led the team with 113 receptions for 1,677 yards a season ago, and he should have another monster season. Quarterback Matt Ryan loves to throw the ball deep, and he has many more weapons to go along with Jones. The Falcons had four different receivers with at least 64 receptions a season ago, but they need more balance in their offense. Atlanta averaged less than 100 rushing yards per game in 2018, and that has to be fixed if they are going to be a playoff team.
Vikings Need a More Balanced Offense
Minnesota is another team that really needs to find more balance on the offensive side of the ball. The Vikings averaged even fewer rushing yards per game than the Falcons did, although injuries played a huge role in that. The return of running back Dalvin Cook should give the Vikings some much-needed balance this season.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for more than 4,200 yards a season ago, and he has some talented weapons on his team as well. Adam Thielen had 113 receptions for 1,373 yards in 2018 and is quickly becoming one of the best receivers in the NFL.
The Vikings took a huge step backward on defense in 2018 after being dominant in 2017. Minnesota led the NFL in fewest points allowed two seasons ago, and they still have much of that same roster. Defensive end Danielle Hunter led the team with 14.5 sacks last season, and he will likely put some pressure on Ryan in this game.
Vikings Win Opener
Both of these teams will be looking for a signature win to start their season, but the Minnesota Vikings will prevail. The Atlanta Falcons can really score, but they just don’t have the defense that will be needed to win this game. Atlanta will put up a good fight, but the Vikings are going to win this game at home. Bet the Minnesota Vikings -4.0 over the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener.