Minnesota Vikings (2-8 SU, 4-5-1 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4 SU, 4-5-1 ATS)
Sunday November 27th, 2011. 1:00PM EST, NFL Week 12
Georgia Dome Atlanta, Ga.
By Jay Horne, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Min +9/ATL -9
Over/Under Total: 44
The Atlanta Falcons got off to a slow start this season with a measly 3-3 record through their first 6 games. The Falcons were expected to challenge New Orleans for the NFC South but the slow start cast doubts in those expectations. Since that time, the Falcons have rallied to win 4 of their last 5 games to close ground in the division race.
The Falcons only loss during that time period was in overtime to the New Orleans Saints in what was a questionable failed 4th down attempt which led to the loss. Even with the loss, the Falcons recent hot streak has put them right back in the thick of the division hunt as they sit just 1 game back to the Saints. This week the 6-4 Falcons host a struggling Minnesota Vikings team as they attempt to keep their momentum alive in effort to earn a playoff position by season’s end.
The 2-8 Vikings will be playing the underdog role on the road inside the Georgia Dome this Sunday. A few online odds makers opened this game with the Falcons as 10 point favorites over the Vikings. However, most other odds makers have held off releasing this figure due to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s status for this Sunday is still up in the air. Of course Peterson has been the biggest playmaker for the Vikings offense this season rushing for 872 yards and 11 touchdowns through the first 10 games. Peterson has gotten things done on the ground even as most defenses focus on stopping the run.
Rookie QB Christian Ponder has shown potential at times, but has not exactly proved he can lead the Vikings to a win through the air alone. On the season, Ponder has completed 52% passing for 955 yards with 5 scores and 6 picks. WR Percy Harvin is a guy that can make plays in the passing game and in the running game for that matter.
The Vikings love getting Harvin the ball in different ways much like he was used during his tenure with the Florida Gators for those that remember his college days. Still, the play behind quarterback has not been consistent enough to get Harvin or any other Vikings receiver the ball on a constant basis. Therefore, if Peterson is unable to go on the ground it will really make things difficult for this Vikings offense on Sunday.
For the Falcons, their offense has finally started clicking in the last few outings after a slow start earlier this year. QB Matt Ryan is a really good quarterback, but even he suffered through turnover issues earlier this year resulting in 10 picks on the year. However, in recent weeks Ryan has found rhythm with the talented Atlanta receiving core. In fact, Ryan has thrown for 300 yards per game with 6 scores and 2 picks in the last 3 games.
Veteran WR Roddy White is coming off his biggest performance of the year. White caught 7 passes for 147 yards in the 23-17 win over the Titans last week. Of course White is not the only guy that can play a big factor in the passing game. Both tight end Tony Gonzalez and WR Julio Jones can come up with big plays at crucial times as well. Jones has especially been impressive in his rookie season catching 30 passes for 498 yards with 2 scores. Jones was held out of the Tennessee game with a hamstring injury, but the Falcons are hopeful for his return this Sunday.
Needless to say Atlanta is extremely talented in the way they match-up in the passing game. However, running back Michael Turner is still a big time factor in the offensive production. Turner has rushed for 888 yards this season which is 5th among all NFL tailbacks. Additionally, Turner has added 8 touchdowns by way of the ground as well. This week Turner will get to battle a Minnesota defense that has played well against the run this season allowing just 100.7 yards per game. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if Turner can still be effective on the ground. If the Vikings shut down the run, that means the game with fall on the arm of Matt Ryan who has had an up and down season.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Peterson is doubtful for this Sunday and if that holds to be true it will be a big blow for the Vikings offense. Ponder is prone to turning the ball over and the Falcons offense is starting to hit stride. Those factors equal a Falcons cover. Take Atlanta -9
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