New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings NFC Divisional Playoff Pick - Betting Odds
New Orleans held on to defeat Carolina 31-26 last Sunday. Minnesota had a 1st-round bye last week. The Vikings won the Week 1 encounter 29-19 at home.
The Saints needed QB Drew Brees to bail them out last week as the vaunted RB duo of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara was limited to 45 total rushing yards on 19 combined carries. They each caught 1 pass. Minnesota had the No.1 defense in yards allowed in 2017, holding opposing rushers to 3.7 ypc and 83.6 ypg. Like the Panthers, expect the Vikes to key on the run and force Brees to the air. Brees threw for 376 yards last week but this pass defense presents more challenges. They have 2 Pro Bowlers in CB Xavier Rhodes (expected to shadow WR Michael Thomas) and hard-hitting SS Harrison Smith. They have a fleet set of LBs and strong pass rushers on the outside (including DE Everson Griffen and his 13 sacks). Brees was sacked once last week and only 20 times in the regular season. However, this defense forces a lot of quick throws with their inside and outside pressure. WR Ted Ginn showed last Sunday that he still has the deep speed to make teams pay and the Vikings will have to respect that. TE Josh Hill made some big plays last week and has gained Brees’ trust. Minnesota also led the league in fewest points allowed so Brees will have to be very careful with the ball as they probably won’t have an abundance of scoring chances.
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When Minnesota won the earlier matchup, they were led by QB Sam Bradford and rookie RB Dalvin Cook. Both succumbed to injuries, to be replaced by QB Case Keenum (career year, 98.3 QB rating) and RBs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. Keenum has been better than a game manager and has a dynamic pair of receivers in Pro Bowler Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. While their pass defense has greatly improved over the past few years, the Saints did allow 224.8 ypg this year and 306 more last week (349 before the sacks). TE Kyle Rudolph and McKinnon both eclipsed 50 receptions as well. That’s a lot of targets for a defense to handle and they did give up 100+ receiving yards each to a RB and TE last Sunday. DE Cameron Jordan had 1 of the team’s 4 sacks vs. the Panthers and had 13 on the year. He’ll require some double teaming and chips from the backs as he is playing at a very high level right now. Murray has become the lead back on running downs and finished the season strong. He had only 216 carries on the year so he is still fresh. The Vikes averaged 3.9 ypc on the season but they stick with it and New Orleans (4.4 ypc allowed) will see a lot of Murray and McKinnon.
In this NFC Divisional Playoff matchup between New Orleans and Minnesota have the public banking of the upset on the road by the Saints getting the 4.5 points with over 65%. The over/under bettors are also thinking this game will go over the posted total line of 46.5 with just over 60% as well.
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings NFC Divisional Playoff Prediction
Minnesota has won 11 of their past 12 games and is the hottest team in the league. They could also be the first team to play in and host the Super Bowl as well as be the first to play in a league championship. Keenum isn’t flashy but has gotten the job done (22-7 TD/INT ratio, 1 lost fumble) due to his composure and decision making. He doesn’t rush his throws and isn’t easily rattled. A good running game has helped as has a top defense. Brees can still make big plays but I think he will have trouble with this pass rush and more so if Kamara and Ingram are contained. I expect the Vikings to win at home and become the first team to host a conference championship in a Super Bowl city. Their defense will be the determining factor.