Three Keys: Vikings at Saints
Unpopular opinion: I dislike the Saints more than the Packers. Ever since the fiasco in 2009, the Saints have been my least favorite team. Sean Payton, who is in the running for the most arrogant coach in the NFL, has nevertheless done a nice job with this team. They’re legit Super Bowl contenders, and they have elite talent throughout their lineup. In other words, our Minnesota Vikings are going to have their hands full on Christmas day against the New Orleans Saints.
Key #1: NO’s Defensive Ends vs. MN’s Tackles
Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are a handful. Thankfully, the strength of Minnesota’s offensive line happens to be the two tackles: Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill. Even still, this is a match up that favors New Orleans, especially since the interior of their defensive line has some talent (David Onyemata is PFF’s #9 DT, but they have several strong options).
Gary Kubiak will likely respond by ensuring Dalvin Cook receivers more than his fair share of touches, doing so to help slow down an intimidating pass rush. Otherwise, the focus ought to be on Kirk Cousins. Is he decisive? Can he continue incorporating the Brady-Wiggle into his game? If he can do these things, the offensive line will end up looking a lot better.
Key #2: Alvin Kamara vs. MN’s Linebackers
Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, and Derrick Henry: they are the three best running backs in the NFL in 2020. The Saints did an amazing job snagging Kamara where they did (67th overall in the 2017 draft). If Eric Kendricks was healthy, then this would be a true battle between NFL heavyweights. A Kendricks-Kamara showdown would be must-see TV. Unfortunately for the Vikings (and NFL fans), Kendricks will likely be on the sideline. Expect Payton to exploit Minnesota’s linebackers relentlessly. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Kamara doesn’t have a huge game.
Key #3: MN’s Receivers vs. NO’s Corners
It always seems that Adam Thielen gets the best of Marshon Lattimore. Hopefully Thielen can continue this trend on Christmas day, and hopefully the Vikings will decide to actually throw him the ball. Janoris Jenkins, PFF’s #16 corner, gives New Orleans another strong option. On paper, then, we have two really good corners vs. two really good receivers. Perhaps it’s my Purple Goggles, but this is a match up that favors Minnesota. If the protection can hold up, Thielen and Justin Jefferson are going to get open. We can’t expect Minnesota’s defense to shut down Drew Brees & Friends, so we’ll need our offense to be dominant.
The Crystal Ball
The drive toward respectability took a big hit last week. Like the guys in purple, TVG’s prediction record sits at a disappointing 6-8. We both have two weeks to get back to a respectable .500 record.
Unfortunately, the New Orleans Saints are going to be too much for the Minnesota Vikings. They’re such a well-built team. They have elite talent throughout their lineup, especially on defense. Perhaps the best chance for Minnesota rests in a dominant day offensively and an opportunistic defense. The likeliest scenario, though, rests in the Saints (who deserve coal under their collective Christmas tree) being too much for the Vikings.
Offseason Prediction: Vikings 28 – Saints 27
Updated Prediction: Saints 36 – Vikings 24