2018 NFL Playoffs
NFC Divisional Game
#4 New Orleans Saints at #2 Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, January 14, 2018, 4:40 pm Eastern, TV: Fox
US Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Opening Line: Minnesota -3 1/2 (-105)
Current Line: Minnesota -5
Opening Total: 45
Current Total: 47
Opening Money Line: Vikings -180 / Saints +157
Current Money Line: Vikings -230 / Saints +190
The Minnesota Vikings hosted the New Orleans Saints in the opening Monday night game of the season. The Vikings won 29-19. The two teams meet again in the NFC Divisional Playoffs Sunday, also in Minneapolis.
I wouldn’t put much stock in that game though. Both teams are vastly different and improved. Sam Bradford started at quarterback for the Vikings but that would be the only full game he would start before a knee injury kept him out of action. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook also started that game but would tear his ACL in the middle of the season. Oh yeah, one running back named Adrian Peterson started for the Saints against his old team. He would later be traded to the Arizona Cardinals a few games later.
Minnesota is 13-3 and won the NFC North. The Vikings are the #2 seed and had a first round bye last week. The Vikings also have a realistic shot of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. New Orleans is 12-5 and won the NFC South Division. The #4 seed Saints beat the #5 Carolina Panthers 31-26 last week in the Wild Card round in New Orleans. It was the third time the Saints beat the division rival Panthers this season. The Saints were 6.5 point favorites and the total was 47.5. The winner between the Saints and Vikings will advance to the NFC Championship game next Sunday to face either the #1 Seed Philadelphia Eagles or the #6 Atlanta Falcons.
Minnesota leads the series 21-11 against New Orleans. The Vikings won the season opener to snap a four game losing streak against the Saints. Minnesota has won two of the three playoff meetings against New Orleans. The Saints beat the Vikings 31-28 in overtime to win the 2009 NFC Championship.
New Orleans is coached by Sean Payton. The Saints have road losses at the Minnesota Vikings 29-19, Los Angeles Rams 26-20, Atlanta Falcons 20-17 and Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-24, plus a home loss to the New England Patriots 36-20. New Orleans went 11-3 after an 0-2 start. New Orleans has a neutral site win over the Miami Dolphins 20-0 in London, plus road wins over the Panthers 34-13, Green Bay Packers 26-17 and Buffalo Bills 47-10. The Saints have home wins over the Detroit Lions 52-38, Chicago Bears 20-12, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-10 Washington Redskins 34-31 in overtime, Panthers 31-21, New York Jets 31-19 and Falcons 23-13. New Orleans is 9-8 ATS and the total is 10-7 this season.
Minnesota is coached by Mike Zimmer. The Vikings have been one of the biggest surprises in football this year. Minnesota has road losses at the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-9 and Carolina Panthers 31-24, plus a home loss to the Detroit Lions 14-7. The Vikings have home wins over the New Orleans Saints 29-19, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-17, Green Bay Packers 23-10, Baltimore Ravens 24-16, Los Angeles Rams 24-7, Cincinnati Bengals 34-7 and Chicago Bears 23-10. Minnesota has a neutral site win over the Cleveland Browns 33-16 in London, plus road wins at the Chicago Bears 20-17, Washington Redskins 38-30, Lions 30-23, Atlanta Falcons 14-9 and Packers 16-0. The Vikings have won eleven of their last twelve games. The Vikings are 11-5 ATS and the total is 7-9 this season.
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New Orleans is outscoring teams 28-20 this season. New Orleans is #4 in scoring and #10 in points allowed. The Saints average 391 yards per game on offense including 262 passing and 129 rushing yards. The Saints are in the top five in all three categories. On defense, New Orleans allows 337 yards per game including 225 passing and 112 rushing yards. New Orleans is 85/209 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 91/224. The Saints have forced 42 sacks and allowed 20 this season. New Orleans is +7 in turnovers. The Saints have scored four defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown. New Orleans has also allowed three special teams/ defensive touchdowns.
Quarterback Drew Brees has completed 72% of his passes for 4,334 yards with 23 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, along with 33 carries for 12 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has been sacked 20 times. Chase Daniel is the back-up but the 38 year old Brees has taken every snap.
Running back Mark Ingram has 230 carries for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 58 catches for 416 yards. Alvin Kamara has 120 carries for 728 yards and 8 touchdowns, plus 81 catches for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns. Fullback John Kuhn could return from a torn bicep but it is unlikely.
Receiver Michael Thomas has 104 catches for 1,245 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is probable with a hamstring injury. Ted Ginn, Jr. has 53 catches for 787 yards and 4 touchdowns. Brandon Coleman has 23 catches for 364 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Hill and Tommylee Lewis will also get some catches. Hill is probable with an ankle injury. Tight end Coby Fleener has 22 catches for 295 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is out for the season with a concussion. Eighteen defensive players and four offensive linemen are on the injury report for the Saints.
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Minnesota is outscoring teams 24-16. The Vikings are #1 in points allowed and #10 in scoring. Minnesota is averaging 357 yards per game on offense including 235 passing and 122 rushing yards. The Vikings are in the top eleven in all three categories. Minnesota allows 276 yards per game on defense including 192 passing and 84 rushing yards. The Vikings are in the top two in all three categories. Minnesota is 95/223 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 60/225. Minnesota has forced 37 sacks and allowed 27 this season. The Vikings are +5 in turnovers.
Quarterback Case Keenum has completed 67.6% of his passes for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and rushed for 160 yards on 40 carries with a touchdown. He has been sacked 22 times. He is starting in place of Sam Bradford who has missed all but two games with a knee injury. Bradford has completed 74.4% of his passes for 382 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Bradford is doubtful with a knee injury. Teddy Bridgewater took a few snaps in blowouts after suffering a horrific knee injury before last season started. He was 0/2 with an interception, but that is not the point. He will be the back-up.
Running back Latavius Murray has 216 carries for 842 yards with 8 touchdowns, plus 15 catches for 103 yards. Jerick McKinnon has 150 carries for 570 yards with 3 touchdowns, plus 51 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook is out indefinitely with a torn ACL. He had 74 carries for 354 yards and four touchdowns, plus 11 catches for 90 yards. Bishop Sankey is also out for the season with a knee injury.
Receiver Adam Thielen has 91 catches for 1,276 yards and 4 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs has 64 catches for 849 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has 57 catches for 532 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is probable with an ankle injury. LaQuon Treadwell has 20 catches for 200 yards. Jarius Wright has 18 catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Five defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report.
The over is 7-2 in this series recently including 5-0-1 in Minnesota. The favorite ahs covered the last five games in this series.
This might be the bet match-up of the second round. In the past, New Orleans had an explosive offense but a terrible defense. They were like the Indianapolis Colts of the NFC. Now, the Saints have a good defense to go with the still explosive offense. New Orleans also has a powerful running game with Ingram and the dynamic rookie Kamara. Minnesota has arguably the best defense in the league, although Jacksonville might disagree. The Vikings also have a solid if not great offense, led by the steady Case Keenum. I like the Vikings to win a close game at home.