Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

NFC Divisional Round Match Up: Saints at Vikings

Sunday’s NFL Divisional Round wraps up with what, on paper, looks like the best game of the slate. The NFC South Champion New Orleans Saints (12-5) travel to U.S. Bank Stadium to face off against the NFC North Champion Minnesota Vikings (13-3).

This will be FOX’s only chance to sling a game our way, so watch it on one of their local affiliates or on your mobile device. Kick off is set for 4:40 p.m. EST.

The Game: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)

O/U: 44.5

The History

The Saints and Vikings have faced off 32 times since 1968 with Minnesota boasting a 21-11 advantage in the all-time series.

The two teams faced off back in September with the Vikings beating the Saints 29-19 at this same U.S. Bank Stadium on opening day. Sam Bradford out-dueled Drew Bees by going 27-of-32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Brees was 27-of-37 for 291 yards and one touchdown.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (12-5)

Here’s the funny thing about the Saints season finale loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; If they’d won, they would have played the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card round. Considering where I pick this game and how I picked the Falcons – Eagles game Saturday, it’s interesting to say the least.

Regardless, New Orleans survived a tough test of their own during Wild Card weekend, downing the Carolina Panthers 31-26 and weathering a 17-point Panthers second half comeback. It wasn’t a great day for an improved New Orleans defense. They surrendered 413 yards, 5.8 yards per play and allowed Carolina to go 8-for-17 on third downs and 1-for-2 on fourth downs. Cam Newton was 24-of-40 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints’ goal on defense, obviously, was to slow down the run and they did. Unfortunately, that meant Newton could pass all over them.

How are they, then, going to prepare for the Vikings? My guess is it’ll be just the opposite. They’ll want to try to reign in any big plays passing, that means a specific focus on Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielan. That’ll leave Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph one-on-one on intermediate routes, so the pass rush will be key. Against the Panthers, New Orleans sacked Newton four times and got six stops in the backfield.

On offense, Drew Brees was his usual terrific self. He finished 23-of-33 for 376 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. The Panthers did their own job of taking away the running game and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara. Kamara gained a total of 33 yards on 11 touches. He did score a touchdown.

With his favorite new toy taken away by the teacher, Brees just used his wide receivers to push the ball down the field. Michael Thomas caught eight passes for 131 yards. Tedd Ginn Jr. caught four balls for 115 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings have the talent on the back end to limit those kinds of days with Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith. Kamara and Melvin Ingram will have to come off the blocks in this game.

New Orleans is mostly healthy. Brandon Coleman is out and linebacker Michael Mauti is questionable with an illness. Everybody else was full go.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13-3)

Minnesota earned a first round bye and the No. 2 seed thanks to their 13-3 finish. Their final game of the regular season could have counted as a bye too as they beat the Chicago Bears 23-10. It’s tough to look at the stats from that game and take away anything relevant for this one. You’d expect that the Vikings, playing for nothing, were in a vanilla gameplan with the thought of just getting out of there healthy. They didn’t rest starters, which surprised me. I really thought we’d see Teddy Bridgewater get some playing time, if not the start. He never took a snap.

Quarterback Case Keenum is the third former Jeff Fisher quarterback that will officially make a playoff start in this year’s postseason. Jared Goff broke the Seventh Seal last week and Saturday will see Nick Foles grab the silver. Keenum will be joined by another former Fisher QB in Sam Bradford with the Vikings, who’s been cleared to suit up and hold a Surface tablet. If he does dress, he’ll probably be the No. 3 behind Bridgewater.

Latavius Murray carried the ball 20 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago. He’ll factor significantly into the gameplan Sunday as Minnesota will want to limit the Saints’ chances with the ball. It doesn’t matter how much faith the Vikings have in their defense. Drew Brees is still Drew Brees and they should be terrified. They’ve been beaten at home twice this season by good teams with solid rushing offenses, the Panthers and the Steelers.

The Vikings have a lot of keys guys with dings, but all should suit up and play.

Fun Facts

The Vikings and Saints have met up in the playoffs three times. Minnesota holds a 2-1 advantage in those match ups.

Their last postseason game, on Jan. 24, 2010, went into overtime with the Saints winning 31-28 in the NFC Championship Game. Brees tossed for 197 yards and three touchdowns against Brett Favre, who was 28-for-46 for 310 yards, one touchdown and two picks. Adrian Peterson rushed 25 times for 122 yards and three touchdowns. Favre has since revealed he played most of the game, where he threw a fourth-quarter interception that kept Minnesota from winning the game with a field goal and going onto the Super Bowl, with a concussion. Maybe that’s not so fun a fact.

The Pick

Last week you probably noticed plenty of stories about how the Los Angeles Rams were going to make a run at the NFC. They focused on Jared Goff’s prolific season and how much better he was out from under former head coach Jeff Fisher. The Rams still lost. This week it’s been Case Keenum who’s gotten the “look at what happens when you escape Jeff Fisher” treatment, to the point that ESPN published an article proposing that none of us should be surprised a Keenum’s breakout season. Never has a player and a team been more set up for a fall. Minnesota’s defense is for real, but I think we’re getting a Falcons vs Saints rematch in the NFC title game. Saints 27, Vikings 24

Last week

Straight up: 2-2

Against the spread: 2-2

Playoffs

Straight up: 2-2

Against the spread: 2-2

Season

Straight up: 159-101

Against the spread: 122-132

To make a wager on any sport, go to the world famous Diamond Sportsbook by clicking here.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Saints at Vikings
Author Rating
51star1star1star1star1star

Check Also

Bill Belichick New England Patriots

Is this Bill Belichick’s Final Year in New England?

At one point before the Super Bowl the ink had not yet been put to paper, but New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had reached an agreement with the Indianapolis Colts to be their next head coach. Before the confetti had dropped on the Patriots' 41-33 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, that deal was scrapped. McDaniels would stay in New England and the Colts would be back in the market for a head coach. 

McFarlane Toys, Madden 19, NFL

Five Dumbest McFarlane NFL Figures of All Time Part 1

Just as the swallows return every year to the Mission At San Juan Capistrano, California every Spring, so then do the McFarlane NFL Figures (or, you know, toys) return to shelves around the country every summer.

Send this to friend