The New Orleans Saints travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of the NFC Divisional playoff game. For most Saint’s fans, the horrific ending of the last game is far from a distant memory. In the final seconds of the game, Case Keenum, threw a prayer to Stefon Diggs and we all know what happened next, The “Minneapolis Miracle.” But if you ask any Saint’s players, they’ll tell you “it’s just another game.” For a coach who couldn’t accept defeat and still showed up to work the next day to game plan for the Conference Championship game against the Eagles, “it’s just another game”. For a player who had a chance to become an instant legend with a game saving tackle on Stefon Diggs and cried after the game for letting his team down, “it’s just another game.” For a Super Bowl minded quarterback, who’ll stop at nothing to win another ring and seal his legacy as “the greatest of all time,” it’s just another game.” Well if you believe “this is just another game,” I have some Louisiana swamp land in Canada for sale.
The Vikings (4-2-1) believed they were only one piece away from havinga Super Bowl roster. They needed a quarterback and sought and received the best one available with Kirk Cousins. Cousins is ranked #3 in passing yards this season in the NFL and so far looks to be worth every penny they paid, and that’s a whole lot of pennies. Viking’s wide receiver Adam Thielen has been the biggest benefactor of Cousins’ arrival, making him the #1 receiver in the NFL, catching over 100 yards in every game so far. The offensive side of the ball has certainly not been responsible for their slow start to the season. That was due mostly to an underperforming defense and being decimated by injuries. Their defensive unit was expected to pick up this year where they left off last year and continue success as one of the best in the league, but that has not been the case. Overall, the Vikings come into this game being ranked #14 on offense, averaging 25.3 points a game and their defense is #15, allowing 23.6 points a game. Several impact starters for the Vikings will not be available for this game: Anthony Barr, Dalvin Cook, Andrew Sendejo, and possibly Xavier Rhodes are listed as out or questionable.
The Saints, (5-1) led by MVP frontrunner Drew Brees, bring their #2 scoring offense to Minnesota to pick up the win they left there the last time they played. The Saints are coming off of a hard fought, battle tested win against Baltimore and their #1 defense. That win on the road showed this team can handle adversity and are up for any challenge the Vikings will throw at them. Fearing the opposite side of cornerback Marshon Lattimore was the weak link on the defense, the Saints decided to make a trade for Eli Apple, hoping he will bring consistency and stability to the position. The addition of Apple should see positive results to a defense that started out poorly, but is up moving from last place to middle of the pack. The Saints boast the best run defense in the league, allowing only 72 yards a game and making it unlikely Viking’s running back, Lativis Murray, will have very much success. The Saints match up very well with this team and should prove to be victorious in the game that is likely to have several lead changes.
The two teams have played each other 33 times, with the Vikings leading the series 22-11, and the Saints having the advantage of 6-5 over the past 11 games. This year the Vikings have showed trouble playing against opponents with winning records, tying at best against them. Key match ups to watch for the game will be: Kirk Cousins vs. Saints secondary, Thielen and Diggs vs Saints secondary, Drew Brees vs. Vikings secondary, Kamara and Ingram vs. Vikings defense, and Sean Payton vs. Mike Zimmer. This game will be filled with lots of action and excitement, likely going all the way down to the final seconds again, except this time, no miracles. The better team will win and that’s the Saints 34-27.