MINNESOTA VIKINGS ($1.42) v NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ($2.94)
This is the match-up of the Divisional Round. The New Orleans Saints travel to U.S Bank Stadium in Minnesota to take on the Vikings.
NOTE: Punters need to remember that the U.S Bank Stadium is indoors, so whilst it will be cold outside, there will be no weather impact in this match.
Whilst the Vikings have had the week off, the Saints were pushed by the Carolina Panthers in a 31-26 win that was dominated by Cam Newton. The Panthers QB threw for 349 yards, ran for 37 yards and had 2 TDs. It also continues the trend of the Panthers losing games where Newton is overly dominant and as such the Saints are left to fight another day.
The Vikings finished the season as the strongest team in the NFC. What makes them so dominant?
The Vikings are a well balanced offence and a strong defence that will make you earn every yard. In terms of rushing you are looking at RBs like Jerrick McKinnon and Latavius Murray to carry the majority of the ground game for the Vikings. Murray rushed for 111 yards against the Bears in their last regular season match
Case Keenum needs to show he belongs in the Playoffs.
Keenum enters his first playoff game against on the of the most accomplished and experienced QB’s in Drew Brees. The Vikings QB has gone 11-3 since he replaced Sam Bradford and is regularly described as one of the most ‘efficient’ QBs in the NFL.
What does that mean? Keenum limits his mistakes and has a high pass completion percentage (67.6%, #2 in the NFL behind Brees) which allows him to generate risk-free offence.
Keenum is also often described as a ‘game manager’ which can sometimes be a negative but we don’t think it is in this situation. Rather he doesn’t have to shoulder the burden of the whole offence, he just has to keep it moving in the right direction. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing the pressure amongst the Vikings offence.
2 things the Saints need to do to win:
- Break down the Viking defence
The Vikings defence is one of the strongest in the NFL (depending on which statistics you look at, the Jaguars, Eagles and Steelers are probably the other three in that picture).
New Orleans have one of the most versatile offences in the NFL and one that we rate highly on the basis that it is just as capable in the air and on the ground. The Panthers run defence made the Saints rely almost completely on the pass and they will need to ensure they make enough space for Ingram and Kamara to run their routes in this game.
- Put the pressure on Case Keenum
The Saints can win this game by pressuring the young QB early in the match. It was a Tyeler Davison sack that changed the momentum of the Panthers game and it will take similar pressure at crucial moments for the Saints to breakthrough against the Vikings.
FINAL SAY: The Vikings and Saints met in the opening round of the season back in mid-September where Minnesota won 29-19 at home.
Punters shouldn’t take too much from this game as 1. Sam Bradford was the QB for the Vikings, 2. Dalvin Cook had 127 rushing yards but tore his ACL and 3. Kamara and Ingram combined for just 35 yards rushing before becoming one of the strongest offensive combinations as the season progressed.
We cannot emphasise just how important this game is to Minnesota. This is the first playoff game to be played at U.S Bank Stadium. We think this game will be in the range of 31-28 to the Vikings.
BEST BETS: New Orleans Saints + 5.0 ($1.90), Total Points Over 46.0 ($1.93)