Yesterday, the Falcons shut down their Flowery Branch facility in response to positive COVID-19 tests. The NFL has already shown the flexibility needed to complete a season during a global health pandemic by rescheduling the Bills and Titans game this past Tuesday. However, the Falcons re-opened their facility today, and it doesn’t appear the Week 6 matchup with the Vikings is in jeopardy of not being played this weekend.
This is the first time we will see a Falcons team led by someone other than Dan Quinn since 2015, as Raheem Morris was named the interim head coach on Monday. This will be his first game as a head coach since 2009 when he replaced Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. At 0-5, the Falcons have nothing to lose this season, making them a dangerous matchup for any borderline playoff team.
3 Keys for Week 6:
Health of Stars
Both teams are dealing with injuries to their most impactful players. The Vikings practiced yesterday without three key starters: star running back Dalvin Cook, Holton Hill, and Jaleel Johnson. The Falcons practiced this week without Julio Jones. However, he is expected to return from his hamstring injury on Sunday. Meanwhile, Takk McKinley is out. It cannot be understated how much Julio’s presence affects a defense, even as a decoy. The health of both teams will play a role in gameplans, but the healthier team stands a better chance to come out of this weekend with a win.
Grady Jarrett Pressure
Grady Jarrett was one of the limited participants in practice yesterday but is expected to be ready before Sunday. The Vikings interior offensive line has struggled mightily this season protecting Kirk Cousins in pass sets. Jarrett is well-aware of the weaknesses this offensive line has and should affect the game early and often. Cousins has already been pressured on 47 of his dropbacks through five games this year, 13 of which resulted in a sack. The lack of protection has caused Cousins to fumble twice, losing one, and throwing seven interceptions. This serves as both a key for the game and a prediction that Grady Jarrett will be in Kirk Cousin’s grill all-day, resulting in turnover-worthy plays.
Matt Ryan‘s History against Mike Zimmer
Matt Ryan has been the prime target of criticism for the lack of success in Atlanta for a long time, and I must say that Falcons fans are ungrateful for what Ryan has done for the franchise. The rant is not over there; every quarterback has egregious interceptions in their career, and for fans to blame recent losses on Ryan’s miscues is lazy and erroneous. Ryan has the ninth-lowest interception per attempted passes percentage in league history at 2.1%. Basically, it is not Matt Ryan’s fault.
Ironically, this key is for Matt Ryan to not throw interceptions. Ryan has never won against a Mike Zimmer coached Vikings team. In four games, he has thrown two interceptions three times. Zimmer has a brilliant defensive mind and always seems to have the perfect scheme prepared for Ryan. For the Falcons to win this Sunday, among other things, Ryan will have to refrain from turning over the ball.