Here's a key matchup to watch in Sunday's Vikings-Falcons game.
Vikings' running game vs. Falcons' run defense
The Vikings will probably be without their starting running back and top playmaker, Adrian Peterson, Sunday. When he left the game Sunday, the running game disappeared with him. The drop from Peterson to Toby Gerhart is quite extreme.
Look for Gerhart to take the bulk of the carries, with Lorenzo Booker getting looks on third downs and WR Percy Harvin mixing in some carries from the tailback position. While the Vikings can't expect to get the type of explosive, game-changing runs they usually receive from Peterson, grinding out yards with Gerhart to make second and third downs easier will be key.
It will be a tough assignment against the strong Falcons run defense, which is giving up only 85.4 yards rushing per game and holding teams to 3.8 yards per carry. MLB Curtis Lofton, who is having an exceptional season in the middle of the defense with 91 tackles and a forced fumble, has been the best player in the front seven.
If the Vikings are unable to make second and third downs manageable for QB Christian Ponder, he will be put in the long-yardage situations he has struggled with in the last two games.