We’re about 24 hours away from the first playoff game in the history of US Bank Stadium and the stakes couldn’t be any higher for this Vikings team, a team that is perhaps better positioned than any other in the fifty-plus year history of this organization to actually bring home a championship. The game is being billed as a meeting of the unstoppable with the immovable in the Saints high-powered offense and the Vikings devastatingly powerful defense and in situations like that people typically look at each part of great teams’ best feature as a scratch, comparing then the remainder to find who is going to win. So, in this case the question becomes whether the Vikings offense is stronger than the Saints defense. Considering that the Saints defense is about 15th/16th in the league in terms of passing and rushing yards allowed and that at one point recently the Vikings were in the top five in terms of offense as well, it seems like the Vikings would have the advantage. However, for whatever reason, perhaps it’s the snake-bitten history of this Vikings team (a team that feels cursed from time to time (from all the time to every time)), or the uncertainty that national pundits still have in Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, but it appears that more people than I’m comfortable with are picking the Saints to yet again upset the Vikings in the playoffs.
Pundits who like the Saints to upset the Vikings this weekend point to New Orleans’ advantage at QB. The writers at My Top Sportsbooks, for example, are saying that Drew Brees is clearly a better option than Case Keenum, despite Keenum’s solid regular-season performance. But Brees has lost playoff games to lesser pivots in the past, including Chad Pennington and Rex Grossman, and Minnesota’s D is arguably the best in the league. The Vikings haven’t surrendered 20 points at US Bank Stadium all year and should ride their stingy defense to another home win on Sunday. So, the initial national narrative felt like people were saying tomorrow’s game was a “Toss Up” or a “Coin Flip”, and it felt like a lot of that was based on the fact that they watched the Saints play last weekend while the Vikings rested and because of that the Saints were more fresh in their minds (thus they were more predominant on their minds), which seems like a really shallow and even stupid way to analyze games that are as important as these but at the same time not many people would use “intelligence” and “football” in the same sentence (something that I clearly disagree with). So, I figured I’d round up all those experts’ takes to see what the consensus actually was for tomorrow’s Viking game.
Saints (+5) vs. Vikings – Sun. Jan. 14, 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Another potential revenge game here with an interesting twist: if the Saints beat the Vikings, they could end up playing three games at Minnesota’s home stadium. That’s a pretty rare situation — the Saints played the Panthers three times this year, but they’re a divisional rival and only two of the games were at home for obvious scheduling purposes. The Saints played the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 1, are rematching with them there in the postseason for the Divisional Round and if New Orleans makes the Super Bowl, they will play in the Vikings stadium again. That’s a pretty crazy advantage. It’s also putting the cart before the horse, because New Orleans has to win this game first. It’s going to require a tremendous effort from Drew Brees along with Michael Thomas stepping up and winning the one-on-one matchup with Xavier Rhodes. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram need to make the Vikings linebackers miss tackles, and the Saints offensive line has to hold up in pass protection. Getting a strong game from Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore is a must as well, because the Saints are going to need some help on defense to win this one. They get all that in this projection though! Prediction: Saints 21, Vikings 17
Prediction: Vikings (7 votes) over Saints
The case for chalk: These teams met in Week 1 this season, but relying on what we saw then is largely a fool’s errand. In some ways, however, that Vikings’ win encapsulates what I believe will be their winning formula on Sunday: neutralizing the Saints’ running game, which was contained to zero rushing attempts of 10 or more yards; extending drives; and slowing the Saints’ red zone offense. Minnesota was the NFL’s third-best red zone defense this season in terms of touchdown percentage allowed. The Vikings’ balanced roster and dominant defense will catapult them to the NFC Championship Game. — Field Yates, NFL Insider
The case for a Saints upset: The Minnesota offensive line surge was a catalyst for the team early in the season, though injuries — including placing guard Nick Easton on injured reserve — impacted the group down the stretch. The Saints’ offense has long generated the most headlines in New Orleans, but it’s well-established that New Orleans’ pass rush is now a dominant force. Disrupting Case Keenum and stressing the Vikings’ second-level pass rush through an ability to incorporate the running backs in the passing game can catapult New Orleans to victory. — Yates
For the rest of ESPN’s Playoff Prediction CLICK HERE
NFL Picks 2017, Divisional Round
|Games||Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Geoff Schwartz||Harry Lyles Jr.||Jeanna Thomas||Adam Stites||Joel Thorman||OddsShark Computer|
|ATL vs PHI||ATL||ATL||ATL||ATL||ATL||PHI||PHI||ATL|
|TEN vs NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE|
|JAX vs PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||JAX||PIT||PIT|
|NO vs MIN||MIN||NO||NO||NO||MIN||NO||NO||MIN|
New Orleans Saints (12-5) at Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Line: Vikings by 5. Total: 46.5.
Walt’s Calculated Line: Vikings -4.5.
Sunday, Jan. 7, 4:40 ET
Comment on this game
The Game. Edge: Vikings. This week on FOX, we’re going to have some Joe Buck and Troy Aikman calling the shots instead the great preseason homers like Kevin Reilly, Ron Wolfley and Don Tollefson, inept ESPN guys Emmitt, Herman Edwards and Matt Millen, and aloof people like Dan Fouts. Here’s what it would sound like if these seven dudes (and some special guests) were calling this game:
Reilly: Welcome to the city of Minnesota, home of this year’s Super Bowl, which I’ll be going to because I work for a TV station, and you losers don’t. Ha! Tonight, we have the New Orleans Saints taking on the Minnesota Twins. Guys, this is the one game from the NFC division not involving my Philadelphia Eagles, so please tell me who’s playing in this game because I haven’t been paying attention, especially after hearing who our special guest will be for this game.
Emmitt: Specials guest, I find it real interesting to hear you saying the NFC division. I got banish from ESPN network for not understanding the differencement betwix the conference and division, and I finally learn that a conference have four division, and a division something from math class.
Herm: LOTS OF CONFERENCES IN THE NFL, KEVIN! LOTS OF CONFERENCES, KEVIN! LET’S TALK ABOUT CONFERENCES, KEVIN! LET’S START WITH THE AFC CONFERENCE, KEVIN! HOW ABOUT THE NFC CONFERENCE, KEVIN! HOW ABOUT PEPPERONI PIZZA CONFERENCE, KEVIN! JUST KIDDING, KEVIN, NOT… WAIT… WHY’S HERM TALKING LIKE CHARLES DAVIS!? WHY’S HERM CHARLES DAVIS!? WHAT’S HAPPENING! WHAT’S… uhh… umm…
NFL playoff picks: Saints at Vikings (-4)
- Date, time: Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
- Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
- TV: FOX
- Live streaming: FuboTV (free trial)
- Odds: Vikings -4; total: 45.5
David Steele: Cut to the chase. The Saints of Brees, Ingram, Kamara, Michael Thomas lead the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NFL (and second in yards). They face off against the Vikings’ defense, giving up the fewest points and yards in the league and starting two first-team All-Pros in the secondary (Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith), and two other Pro Bowlers on the unit (Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr). The most fun will be when the Saints have the ball.
The most worrisome time for the Saints is when they don’t have it. Keenum had plenty of weapons, even without Cook, and none more dangerous than receiver Adam Thielen, who went from honoring Randy Moss with his shoes to posting stats like the Hall of Fame finalist. The Saints are going to have to put serious heat on Keenum, and Marshon Lattimore will have his hands full covering him, assuming that’s how the Saints play it. The receiving corps in Minnesota is a dramatic upgrade from what the Saints faced against the Panthers, plus tight end Kyle Rudolph.
All that being said … Brees is starting his 13th career postseason game, his sixth in the divisional round. Keenum is starting his first, period.
Pick: Saints 30, Vikings 25
TheVikingAge.com’s David Steele scoured the internet and found pretty much every prediction from a national/”objective” resource and found that of the 31 different takes on the Vikings/Saints game, 19 were picking the Saints to upset the Vikings. It really all seems to boil down to the Brees vs. Keenum conundrum, taking Brees’ greatness and experience against Keenum’s pre-2017 reputation and first apperance as the determining factor. However, people are ignoring that Brees hasn’t had the best record in the post-season and that he and the Saints have lost to a lot worse teams (and QB’s) than Keenum and the Vikings. On top of that, there is nary a mention of how important homefield is going to be in tomorrow’s game as well.
Keenum and the Vikings really do play well with a chip on their shoulders and it’s been said that head coach Mike Zimmer is a master of bulletin board material. So, we should all be happy that the Vikings are somehow underdogs at home against the Saints, as we all know what happens when teams get overconfident. Considering that the Saints have players who talk about their competition as “Speedbumps”, it’s clear that one team is more focused on the X’s and O’s while the other is celebrating their playoff berth like this: