Vikings vs. Falcons: Matt Ryan and Atlanta Look To Fly Past Minnesota

Ryan DuncanContributor IIINovember 25, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 13: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons passes against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on November 13, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Sunday's matchup between Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings features one team fighting for the playoffs, and another that's just not fighting. 

While no game in the NFL is an absolute certainty, the Falcons will be hosting a struggling Vikings team playing without running back Adrian Peterson, who suffered an ankle sprain against the Oakland Raiders.

Ryan has caught fire as of late, averaging over 300 yards and two touchdowns a game in his last three games. 

This is a trend that certainly looks to continue as the Falcons face one of the NFL's worst passing defenses.  The Vikings are allowing opposing quarterbacks an average rating of 102.1, which places them 31st in the NFL.  Minnesota also has allowed a league-worst 19 passing touchdowns this season.

With Julio Jones hopeful to return from a lingering hamstring injury on Sunday, Matt Ryan could have a full arsenal at his disposal. 

Jones has begun to show flashes of why the Falcons traded up 21 spots to select him No. 6 overall in the 2001 NFL Draft—especially after his 131-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Indianapolis Colts

With Jones' return and the apparent resurgence of All-Pro Roddy White, the Falcons potentially could use Sunday's game to show the rest of the NFL why they'll be ready come January.

Without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will look to Toby Gerhart to carry the load against the NFL's No. 2-ranked run defense.  The Falcons, led by defensive tackle Corey Peters, are giving up a measly 85.4 yards per game on the ground.

After winning four of their last five games, the Falcons find themselves just one game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.  With four of their remaining six games coming against teams with losing records, the Falcons are sitting in a great position. 

December could prove to be the perfect opportunity for this team to start firing on all cylinders, which could pose problems for opponents come playoff time.