NFC Wildcard Preview: New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings

John Lepore | January 5th, 2020

The New Orleans Saints will host the Minnesota Vikings at 1:05 ET today. The Saints won the NFC South with a 13-3 record while the Vikings hold the sixth seed finishing 10-6. This will be a rematch of the divisional round game from two years ago and give the Saints a chance to avenge the “Minnesota Miracle”.

Keys for the Saints

Get Alvin Kamara involved – While the Saints have been putting up points (34+ in six of their last seven games), This is the time to lean a bit on your studs. Kamara hasn’t had 20 touches since before Thanksgiving. The lack of workload was due to a combination of factors including load management, Kamara being banged up earlier in the season, and the emergence of other players. Now is the time for the Saints to use one of their best weapons and considering his low usage over the past 6 weeks, Kamara should be ready to handle 25-30 touches and make a significant impact.

Turnover battle – It’s no secret that the team that wins the turnover battle generally wins the game. The Saints were excellent on both sides of the ball in that respect. They caused 23 turnovers and only gave up the ball a league-low 8 times all season. The bottom line here is the Saints don’t beat themselves. That is important especially in the playoffs when you face the caliber of teams that will take advantage of a short field.

Stopping CookDalvin Cook has been excellent this season with over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 13 TDs. The Saints allow 4.2 ypc this season which was good enough for 17th in the league. The key here is to not allow Cook to dictate the game-flow and keep Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and company off the field. If the Saints defense can contain him enough on early downs and force Kirk Cousins into 3rd and 7s rather than 3rd and 3s, they can take advantage and force mistakes with the pass-rush.

Keys for the Vikings

An efficient Cousins – Kirk Cousins has been good with his efficiency this season throwing only six picks with a 69.1% completion percentage. But in his last four games, he has thrown three picks with a 65.3% comp. and only five TDs with 847 yards in the air. He will need to be better by using Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook at all three levels of the Saints defense. Cousins will have to mix it up and be able to go through his reads to keep up with the Saints’ offense.

Thielen steps up – Adam Thielen missed a good chunk of time this season with a hamstring injury. He came back for weeks 15 and 16 but was ineffective (three catches for 27 yards). He rested in week 17 and the Vikings will need him at full strength today. Having Thielen back to Pro-bowl level will put the Saints defense in a tough spot considering Eli Apple is out for the game. If the Vikings can exploit the matchup, it will go a long way to sustaining drives and keeping the Saints’ offense on the sidelines.

Possession and takeaways – The Vikings average drive lasted 2:39 which was middle-of-the-pack. Their opponents’ average drive was 2:57 which ranked 27th in the league. When you match that with the Saints’ average time of possession (2:59, 4th in the NFL) you see something that will absolutely need to change today for the Vikings to win. Minnesota forced 31 turnovers this season which was good enough for 4th in the NFL, but as stated before, the Saints turned the ball over the fewest times (8). Something has to give.

Prediction: Saints 38-23

For a full injury report on both teams check out the article here.

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