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Week 4 preview: Falcons vs. Vikings

Atlanta Falcons (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2)

Sunday, 3:25 p.m., at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

TV: FOX (Announcers: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale)

Keys to the game: The Vikings slowed the Saints significantly on the road last week despite ample distress over on and off-field issues. Next up isAtlanta, which put up 42 points behind a nearly perfect Matt Ryan effort. Matching up with Ryan's three-wide receiver packages is a concern for the Vikings, who plan to shoot gaps with pressure from the front seven.

It will be up to rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater to keep the Vikings in the game after generating only field goals at New Orleans. The Falcons know WR Cordarelle Patterson is a dangerous player, who could change the game and will bring him extra attention.

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With their running game nonexistent, the Vikings must change their identity in a hurry. Bridgewater showed tremendous mobility in three quarters of action against the Saints, so look for offensive coordinator Norv Turner to use that as a way to keep the Falcons from blitzing as much as you'd expect in a rookie's starting debut. If Bridgewater can run effectively without getting hurt, the Vikings should be able to make some plays with receivers Greg Jennings and Patterson.

Matchup to watch -- Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn: Jones leads the NFL in receiving yards with 365 and a 15.9-yard average, and Munnerlyn, the former Carolina Panther, will be making his 11th start against the Falcons. Jones has the distinct physical advantage being six inches taller and 25 pounds heavier. Munnerlyn moves to the slot in the nickel, and the Vikings don't have a great matchup for Jones in those situations.

Player spotlight -- Falcons DT Ra'Shede Hageman: Homecoming week is nigh for Hageman, who played high school and college football inMinneapolis -- on this very field. Hageman, who was selected in the second round, played 37 percent (22 of 60 snaps) of defensive plays last week but only 20 percent (15 of 75 snaps) against New Orleans and 15 percent (11 of 71 snaps) against Cincinnati. Head coach Mike Smith said he'll get more playing time this week.

Fast facts: Falcons WR Devin Hester has nine career touchdowns against the Vikings. ... Munnerlyn has four pick-6s, tied for the NFL lead, since 2012.


WHO WILL WIN AND WHY


Atlanta's defense is no bully, but QB Teddy Bridgewater will get heat from the Falcons without a strong running game. QB Matt Ryan's offense is clicking, and the Vikings are not capable of matching up.

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Our pick: Falcons 27, Vikings 17

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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