On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings welcome the New Orleans Saints back to town as these two teams play for a spot in the NFC Conference title game. The Saints have their offense rolling along, while the Vikings are coming off a much needed rest. It will be one of the league’s top defenses against one of the league’s top offenses in what should be an exciting game. Kickoff inside U.S. Bank Stadium is at 4:40 PM ET.
Sunday’s matchup will be the 33rd time these two teams have faced each other. The Vikings hold the advantage with an all-time record of 21-11 against the Saints. Minnesota also has a 2-1 record against the Saints in the playoffs. However, it was New Orleans that got a 31-28 OT victory against Minnesota in their last playoff battle back in 2009. These two teams played in Week 1 of the 2017 season and the Vikings won the contest 29-19.
New Orleans (12-5) is coming off a hard fought 31-26 win over the Carolina Panthers in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs. The Saints not only swept Carolina on the season, but they also had an impressive offensive performance against a solid defense. Will they be able to duplicate that offensive output against one of the league’s best defenses?
Minnesota (13-3) finished as the #2 seed in the NFC standings and earned a much needed week off. They will be rested and charged for this tough battle against New Orleans. The Vikings finished the regular season with a 7-1 record at home and look like the best team in the NFC. Will the Vikes be able to defeat the Saints for a 2nd time this season and get revenge for their NFC Championship loss to NO in 2009?
The spread opened with the Vikings favored by 3.5 points. However, some books have Minnesota favored by 4. Since we’re going with the Vikings in this one, take the lowest line out there. The Over/Under opened at 44.5 points and has come down to 45 total points.
In their first matchup, the Vikings held New Orleans to 344 total yards, with just 60 of those total yards coming on the ground. However, a lot has changed in a season. Most notably, the Saints leading rusher that opening game was Adrian Peterson who is no longer on the team. Additionally, the Vikings starting QB was Sam Bradford who’s missed most of the season. So, this weekend’s matchup will have some new faces leading the way.
Despite the new faces, the Saints still have Drew Brees and he will be slinging the ball all over the field. In the Week 1 game, he finished with 291 yards and 1 TD. However, last weekend, Brees proved that he still has what it takes to win in the playoffs as he threw for 376 yards and 2 TDs in the Wild Card round. It’s no surprise that Brees had a big game because Carolina was focused on stopping the run, which is the main strength of the 2017 Saints. The Panthers were successful in this approach as they held New Orleans to just 41 total rushing yards. Unfortunately for Carolina, they couldn’t stop the pass.
This weekend, the Saints will play a Vikings defense that is, in my opinion, the best defense in the playoffs and the NFL. The Vikes finished 1st in total yards allowed at 275.9 ypg, 2nd against the pass at 192.4 ypg, 2nd against the run at 83.6 ypg, and 1st in the league at fewest points allowed (15.9ppg).
The Vikings are able to play great defense as a whole and can handle the Saints powerful offense. An example of this balanced defensive effort would be the Week 10 matchup where the Vikings hosted the Rams. Minnesota dominated that game as they held the Rams to just 254 total yards, 7 points, forced a turnover and held MVP candidate Todd Gurley to just 37 yards on the ground.
I don’t see them holding the Saints to just 7 points and that low of a total offensive output, but I do see them being able to contain and limit this high powered Saints offense. New Orleans might be able to get 300 total yards, but they won’t translate that output into touchdowns. Will Lutz will probably be the Saints best offensive weapon this weekend as he kicks at least 3 field goals this game. In fact, I don’t see the Saints scoring much more than they did in Week 1 against the Vikings when they put up 19 points.
Defensively, the Saints allowed 20.4 ppg this season which was good for 10th. New Orleans was 16th against the run at 111.7 ypg, 15th against the pass at 224.8 ypg, and 17th in yardage at 336.5 total ypg. For New Orleans to win this game, they will need their defense to play lights out and not like the middle of the pack unit that they finished the regular season as. Unfortunately for the Saints, I don’t see this happening.
Minnesota has the 11th ranked offense at 356.9 total ypg, 11th in passing yards at 234.6 ypg, 10th in points at 23.9 ppg, and 7th in running yards at 122.3 ypg. So, the Vikings were basically a Top 10 offense by time the season ended, which is what makes this team so dangerous. Not only does Minnesota have the best defense, but they also have a Top 10 offense. I don’t see the Saints being able to win this game. The Vikings are too much for New Orleans to handle.
New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games, 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games versus Minnesota and 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games at the Vikings. Minnesota is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games, 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games, 8-3 ATS as a favorite this year and 8-3 ATS versus NFC teams this year.
I expect the Vikings defense to slow down the Saints offense and put the Minnesota offense in favorable positions. Look for Case Keenum to continue his impressive season as he has a strong outing against an average Saints pass defense. I believe the Vikings running back duo of McKinnon and Murray will actually outperform the All-Pro Saints duo of Ingram and Kamara, which will be the deciding factor in this game. Minnesota wins at home, gets revenge for 2009, and defeats the Saints 27-20.