Two legitimate Super Bowl contenders will meet in the host city on Sunday, as the New Orleans Saints will head to Minnesota to take on the Vikings.
Both teams would admit they’ve been surprise packages this year. While everyone knows about the Saints’ offense, their defensive improvements have them thinking about a championship. The Vikings meanwhile have been the opposite – stout defensively, but their offense has been solid as well led by career journeyman QB Case Keenum. The Vikes and Saints still enter with question marks though, and you get the sense that the victor of this game should likely be the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl. It should be another great match on the Divisional Round slate, so read on below the odds for a full breakdown and official betting selection for this big Saints/Vikings match-up.
Saints vs. Vikings Betting Odds:
New Orleans +5.5 (-110)
@ Minnesota Vikings -5.5 (-110)
Over 47 (-105)
Under 47 (-115)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Saints vs. Vikings Pick:
One of the best unit vs. unit match-up this weekend has to be the Saints’ offense battling the heralded Vikings’ defense. Back in Week 1, these two squads faced off – and the Vikings got the better of Brees. He still threw for nearly 300 yards, but recalling back tells us that many of those gains were picked up in garbage time.
Luckily for New Orleans things have changed and so too has their offense. There’s no more Adrian Peterson, and the emergence of Alvin Kamara currently has the Saints in round two of the post-season. Kamara and his running mate Mark Ingram weren’t particularly great last week vs. Carolina, so you can bet that duo will be raring to go in Minnesota. The Vikes are solid against the run – they’re dominant across the board in all defensive categories – but the Saints may still be able to find some holes.
Looking at the numbers, the Vikes were a tad weak in making tackles within their defensive backfield. If Kamara and Ingram can break through the line of scrimmage, their secondary may struggle to bring them down and prevent a long rushing gain. Minnesota ranks just 26th in their defensive stuff rate against run games, and that could be something to watch. Regardless, I’d expect the Saints to utilize the ground attack heavily on first and second downs, to set up Drew Brees well for many third-and-short situations on Sunday.
When it comes to throwing the ball, I’d expect many short dump-offs from Brees in the pocket. He’ll likely get rid of the ball quickly, but whether or not he can consistently find receivers open against the Vikings’ adept secondary remains to be seen. One glimmer of hope was that Brees killed teams on all-out blitzes – a tactic the Vikings tend to employ at an above average rate. If the Vikings’ do get blitz-happy – look for the Saints to be able to move the chains on them.
On the other side of the ball, Case Keenum will be making his first playoff start. He’s had an improbable campaign to date, and I think he will endure some struggles on Sunday against the Saints’ secondary. Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley have both put together solid coverage seasons, and I’d expect Lattimore to effectively take away Adam Thielen – while Stefon Diggs is in for a tough match-up vs. Crawley. The Saints are here because of huge improvements to their defense, and despite some recent injuries – this group misses very few tackles and aren’t pushovers anymore.
Minnesota also ranked 28th in the pressure rate allowed along their offensive line, and that’s welcome news for the Saints. Their pass rush has been very solid this year and they should be able to get after Keenum and force him into some hurried situations. He’s been having a fairytale season to date, though I think New Orleans stifles him on Sunday.
While I do think the Vikes are a great team, this is going to be a very tough match-up for them. I think the Saints make it about as tough as it can be and keep things tight throughout. I’m expecting a close match-up with Brees outperforming Keenum down the stretch.
PICK = Saints +5.5 (-110)