NFC North: Falcons at Vikings highlights Week 1

Bill Huber

Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has 46,720 career passing yards, the most ever for a player in his first 11 seasons. After throwing for 4,924 yards last season, he has topped 4,000 passing yards each of the last eight seasons – the second-longest streak in NFL history. His favorite target, Julio Jones, needs two catches to reach 700. This will be Jones’ 112th career game; the only player to reach 700 faster was Antonio Brown (111 games). Minnesota’s pass defense is elite. It ranked third in the NFL with 196.2 passing yards per game while yielding a league-low 15 touchdown passes.

“Defensive line, second level, secondary, they all play physical. They’re solid tacklers,” Ryan said in a conference call with Vikings reporters on Wednesday. “They do a nice job within their pressure package; they give you a bunch of different looks, stress your protections … and they attempt to make you uncomfortable.

“When you go against a defense of his, I’ve played against them a number of times, both here and in Cincinnati, and you know you have to play tough against them,” Ryan added.

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals

No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray will make his NFL debut. Murray will be the Cardinals’ first rookie quarterback to start the opener since Lamar McHan in 1954. On the other side of the age spectrum, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald leads all active players with 234 games. His 16,279 career passing yards trail only Jerry Rice in NFL history. New Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will attempt to get quarterback Matthew Stafford back to elite status. Last season, Stafford was among the worst quarterbacks with 10.3 yards per completion overall and a red-zone passer rating of 77.2. Stafford has thrown for 3,750 yards and 20 touchdowns for eight consecutive seasons; Brees has the longest streak with 11.

For looks at the rest of this week's games, check out my story at Forbes.