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2018 NFL Divisional Round Analysis: Saints vs Vikings

The New Orleans Saints will be going for their second consecutive playoff win when they visit the Minnesota Vikings at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

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New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings Expert  Predictions

  • When: January 14, 2018, 4:40 PM ET
  • Where: U.S. Bank Stadium
  • Spread: Vikings -5
  • Total: 46.5
  • Moneyline: Vikings -210 vs Saints +175

New Orleans Saints Analysis

The Saints played the Vikings in their season opener, losing the game 29-19. However, the team they faced back in September isn’t the same team they will face on Sunday.

The Vikings started that game with Sam Bradford at quarterback and Dalvin Cook as their wide receiver.

But, both players suffered significant injuries during the season and have since been replaced by Case Keenum and Latavius Murray, who helped lead the team to the playoffs.

Last week, the Saints defeated Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers for the third time this season thanks to a defense that came up big when they needed them to, and veteran quarterback Drew Brees.

The team had been hoping to get a solid performance by their running backs, which would have made things easier on Brees, but the team combined for 41 yards on 22 carries, leaving Brees to carry the offense.

Fortunately for the Saints, Brees was up to the challenge and finished the game completing 23 of 33 attempts for 376 yards two touchdowns and one interception.

Despite naysayers speaking of Brees’ downfall, the future Hall of Famer is still deadly-effective in finding his No. 1 target Michael Thomas.

The team will be hoping he can do it again if called upon, but would rather have their running game get back on track.

New Orleans’ one-two backfield punch will be critical in this game. If running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, who lead the NFL in rushing yards (1,852), rushing TDs (20), scrimmage yards (3,094) and scrimmage TDs (25), perform well in this game they’ll eat up the clock and control the outcome.

The Vikings defense gave up the fewest scrimmage yards to running backs last year and was second in the league in yards per touch allowed to running backs.

Clearly, the Saints’ running backs will have to step up their game if they want to make it out of Minnesota with a win.

Key Saints Betting Trends

  • New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games
  • New Orleans is 12-3 SU in its last 15 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of New Orleans' last 6 games

Minnesota Vikings Analysis

The Vikings are hoping to become the first team to play in the Super Bowl at their home field, but they will need to defeat the Saints to get one step closer to achieving the dream.

Despite finishing with the second-best record in the NFC, the Vikings don’t have a lot of playoff experience, which might have an impact on how well they play on Sunday.

Keenum will be making his first postseason start, and Murray’s only playoff experience is a Wildcard game with the Oakland Raiders last season.

This inexperience might be the Vikings’ downfall; comparatively, Drew Brees has 12 career playoff starts versus Keenum’s zero.

The last time a quarterback without playoff experience led an offense to victory against a team led by a QB with more than 10 playoff starts was Tim Tebow over Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers in 2011.

However, Keenum should be able to connect with Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen to inflict damage of New Orleans’ banged-up defense that’s given up an average of 434 total yards per game over the last two weeks.

The good news for Minnesota fans is the fact that the team will go into the game with a lot of confidence thanks to their win over the Saints on opening night.

It also helps that the Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league. To defeat the Saints, the Minnesota defense will have to follow a similar game plan to the one that helped them defeat New Orleans in their first meeting.

The Vikings will need to shut down New Orleans’ running game, and go after Drew Brees on every down, and try to force him into making mistakes.

The plan almost worked for the Panthers last week, but early mistakes ended up costing the Panthers a chance to win the game.

Minnesota's D is perfectly capable of stuffing the run (second in rushing YPG allowed), killing the pass (second in passing YPG), stifling scoring drives (first in points per game) and stopping big plays (fewest rushes of 10-plus yards and receptions of 20-plus yards allowed).

The Vikings will also need to do a good job protecting the ball against the Saints defense, which missed a few opportunities to pick Newton off last week.

Key Vikings Betting Trends

  • Minnesota is 9-2 ATS in its last 11 games
  • Minnesota is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Minnesota's last 5 games

Pick and Prediction: The Vikings won the first game rather easily, but they will have a tougher time on Sunday. Take the Saints +5.

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