Saints at Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings defeated the visiting New Orleans Saints in their season opener and have won five straight at U.S. Bank Stadium heading into the teams' NFC divisional round contest on Sunday. The Vikings are banking their home success pays dividends as they continue their pursuit of becoming the first team to host a Super Bowl when they face off against Drew Brees and the Saints.
Case Keenum watched as Sam Bradford earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the 29-19 win over the Saints on Sept. 11 before the journeyman quarterback was ushered into action. Keenum became a dark-horse NFL MVP candidate after recording career highs in completions (325), attempts (481), yards (3,547), touchdowns (22) and passer rating (98.3) while posting an 11-3 mark as a starter. "I always root for guys like that, kind of the undersized guy coming out that nobody wants to give any credit and just always plays with a chip on his shoulder," said Brees, who is a sentimental darling in his own right as he approaches his 39th birthday. Brees penned one of his best performance of the season last weekend by throwing for 376 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers for the third time this season with a 31-26 win in the wild-card game.
TV: 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Vikings -5. O/U: 46.5
ABOUT THE SAINTS (12-5): Like Minnesota, New Orleans also changed quite a bit after the season opener as former Vikings great Adrian Peterson was jettisoned to Arizona in favor of the two-pronged attack of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. The potent pair became the first running back duo in league history to gain more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage and helped New Orleans lead the NFL with 4.7 yards per carry and 23 rushing touchdowns. Kamara finished second among running backs in catches with 81 during the regular season, but had just one against the Panthers last weekend. Michael Thomas more than picked up the slack, however, reeling in eight of nine targets for 131 yards in his playoff debut.
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (13-3): Swapping quarterbacks isn't Minnesota's only notable change from the season opener as Latavius Murray's workload was nondescript before impressive rookie Dalvin Cook saw his season end due to an ACL injury. Murray recorded eight touchdowns in his last 10 games of the season while fellow running back Jerick McKinnon reeled in 43 of his 51 receptions over the last 12. Wideout Stefon Diggs found the end zone on two occasions in the first meeting with the Saints and scored a touchdown in each of the last three games of the season.
1. Minnesota DE Everson Griffen had one of his team-leading 13 sacks versus New Orleans in the season opener.
2. Saints DE Cameron Jordan, who also has a team-leading 13 sacks, is the son of former Vikings standout TE Steve Jordan.
3. Minnesota owns a 13-3 all-time mark at home versus New Orleans.