MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings let a prime opportunity for a win on the road slip through their hands last week, but it was still a better week for their organization than this week's opponent.
Atlanta (0-5) fired general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn late Sunday, leaving the NFC South team desperate to rally around its new coach for win No. 1 of the year. The Vikings (1-4) aren't doing much better, and they need a win against a struggling foe to keep playoff hopes alive.
Here's what to watch for in this weekend's matchup:
Second chance for Morris
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was named the interim head coach of Atlanta this week following Dan Quinn's dismissal. It will be Morris' second stint as an NFL head coach, following three up-and-down seasons with Tampa Bay. The defense has been porous and former MVP Matt Ryan has looked lost at quarterback, so the biggest question surrounding the Falcons is how quickly — if at all — Morris can turn this team around.
Early reports this week are down on Dalvin Cook's chances of suiting up to play against Atlanta ahead of Minnesota's bye week. Alexander Mattison, who rushed for 110 yards against Seattle after Cook (groin) left the game, will be in line to get most of the team's carries. Head coach Mike Zimmer has not been shy about giving Mattison a big role when Cook has been unavailable, so look for him to play a big role for Minnesota
Is he Druly out?
Lots of ire from Vikings fans has been directed at right guard Dru Samia, as his pass blocking performances have him rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the worst players in the league. But it appears fans will need to find a new punching bag. Samia (wrist) was held out of Thursday's practice, meaning second-round draft pick Ezra Cleveland may make his offensive debut versus Atlanta.
While Ryan and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins haven't had their best seasons in 2020, both defenses offer up struggling secondaries that could turn this game into a shootout. Minnesota's cornerbacks — especially rookie Jeff Gladney — have made recent strides, so it could a chance for a statement game for that group.
Will there even be a game?
Atlanta reported a pair of positive COVID-19 tests this week, prompting the Falcons to close their practice facility. Defensive lineman Marlon Davidson was placed on the COVID/reserve list, while the second case was an undisclosed staff member. It's possible everything else before this is moot.