On Sunday, third seed New Orleans (13-3) will host Minnesota (10-6) in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Saints will be seeking revenge from their matchup two years ago when the Vikings pulled off the “Minneapolis Miracle.”
The New Orleans passing attack has been stellar this year. Drew Brees has thrown 27 touchdowns to only four interceptions, despite missing five games and most of another. In his last six games, Brees has thrown for 22 touchdowns and only one interception. They have been hitting on all cylinders, and Michael Thomas has been the primary beneficiary. He will be a nightmare for Xavier Rhodes or whoever ends up covering him.
Minnesota has been respectable against the pass. They are in the top third in the league when it comes to defending running backs and tight ends, but they rank 25th in yards allowed to wide receivers. They also allow quarterbacks to complete 65.6% of their passes, which ranks 27th in the league.
The Saints give up the third-fewest sacks, and the Vikings have recorded the fifth-most sacks. New Orleans has sacked opposing quarterbacks the third-most. The Vikings will need to protect Kirk Cousins to give him a shot to win this game.
Cousins has struggled mightily against top competition. Since becoming the Vikings quarterback, Cousins is 0-10 against 10-win teams, 2-10 against playoff teams, and 3-11-1 when facing teams with a winning record. This will be the biggest game of Cousins’ career as he looks to solidify his name as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
I expect both teams to be thrown the ball more than usual, with a large variety of quick-hitting passes. That’s the best way to avoid pressure and to develop a rhythm. The Vikings corners will be tested early and often. That will help open up the running game for New Orleans. Minnesota struggles to get the run game going in this one, making it hard for Cousins on play-action passes.
New Orleans Saints 31 Minnesota Vikings 24
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