The Saints and Vikings met on the first Monday night of the season in Minneapolis … and will meet again in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
However, there will be no Sam Bradford (except in emergency), no Dalvin Cook and no Adrian Peterson memorably scowling at Sean Payton. How quaint that was, worrying about how the 32-year-old future Hall of Famer would fit in.
MORE: Stream Saints-Vikings live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial)
Somehow the Saints turned Peterson into a footnote, and the Vikings did the same with Bradford, the quarterback they traded a first-round pick to get a year earlier. The Vikings won that night, 29-19, and managed to get better even without Bradford and Cook. The Saints’ three-man backfield has since turned into a two-headed monster of Mark Ingram and breakout rookie Alvin Kamara.
The Vikings have gotten a special season out of Case Keenum, worked around Cook’s injury, unleashed another rugged version of Mike Zimmer’s defense, and threatened to make the NFC go through Minneapolis to get to the Super Bowl (in Minneapolis). And the Saints still have Drew Brees, who reminded everyone of who he is when needed in the wild-card win over the Panthers.
Enjoy the rematch between better versions of these teams, playing for much higher stakes.
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
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Vinnie Iyer: Minnesota’s run defense shut down New Orleans’ rushing offense in Week 1. But that was before Kamara became a big part of the Saints’ backfield. The Vikings will feel confident about their defense playing well overall at home, but they will need to win this game with offense.
Kamara, Ingram and Thomas are three difficult entities to contain all at once, especially with Brees playing so well. As the Saints have been a strong finishing team, the Vikings need to be sharp in the red zone.
The Vikings need to be aggressive with Keenum early, looking for big plays to wideouts Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and then turning to Latavius Murray and Kyle Rudolph to close out their own drives.
It will be close, with Brees and Keenum in a duel, but a Kai Forbath field goal will be the difference late.
Pick: Vikings 23, Saints 20