The season is finally upon us and the Vikings are set to face off against the New Orleans Saints, a team that still has components of the squad that cheated their way to a Super Bowl win in 2009. Because of that history, and the fact that now-former Viking running back Adrian Peterson is returning to US Bank Stadium, tonight’s game should be huge, in every sense of the word. It’s a national game, it’s the ‘Aints, it’s Drew Brees and Sean Payton, it’s a huge indication of where this Vikings team actually stands after a pre-season that can only be described as objectively awful. Now, the Saints went 7-9 last season and have made some improvements on both sides of the ball. Because of that, this game is essentially a toss-up when it comes to the betting side of things. According to MyBookie.Ag, the Vikings are 3-point favorites over the Saints in tonight’s match-up.
I also wrote an article that broke down the three major keys to tonight’s game and made a prediction that the Vikings would win by a field goal, 20-17. That was before I saw the line in Vegas, but it makes sense. First of all, as I’m sure you know, home teams are typically spotted 3-points because of the advantage of playing in front of your hometown crowd (even if they sometimes do that new clapping thing when the Vikings have the ball). But, the outcome of tonight’s game really could be anyone’s guess as there are just far too many question marks for both teams to really know what’s going to happen.
The Vikings have a brand spanking new offensive line that really has never played together as a unit (they’ve played together in pieces, or next to one another, but never as one cohesive unit (in a game)) and considering the disaster that was the 2016 offensive line, there’s a lot of anxiety there. Outside of that, the Vikings have a few questions on defense, namely in their secondary. Third-year corner Trae Waynes really, really needs to step up and show that he’s worthy of the 11th overall pick that the Vikings used to get him in the 2015 draft. 2016 second rounder, Mackenzie Alexander, is another question mark at the nickel position and considering the fact that the Saints have one of the most accurate and dangerous passers of all time in Drew Brees, you’d think that both will be on the field all night tonight.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the Saints utilize Adrian Peterson. Peterson is known for dictating every offense he’s been a part of, typically getting between 20 and 30 carries per game. He needs those carries to wear down the defense and also to get into his groove. Considering the fact that Saints have Mark Ingram, you’d think that they really will only give AP between 5-10 touches. They’ve also added a lot of new faces on defense, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings offense works against a mediocre at best unit (which is a gift for an offense that struggled to get on the same page during the pre-season). Keep an eye out for rookie linebacker Ben Gedeon, as well. He emerged in the pre-season as a great pick up (despite the reaction to the Vikings drafting him back in April) and he may be the one to shut down Peterson. The Vikings defensive line should have a busy night and if they start out like they did in 2016 (with almost 10 sacks a game against QB’s like Cam Newton). Danielle Hunter could be tonight’s MVP, as the defensive line will definitely need to bring consistent pressure to take the load off of Waynes, Alexander and Xavier Rhodes.
I do believe that this Vikings team has potential and I think that while they’re going to be a work in progress (especially due to the offensive line) they should be good enough to beat the Saints at home. If they want to make a play for the division they definitely need to win games like this.