If you’re inclined to believe the oddsmakers, Sunday’s match-up between the Vikings and Saints should be the least competitive playoff game of the weekend. Rest assured, no one in Minnesota is willing to accept defeat as of yet.
If Mike Zimmer’s team is going to pull off the big upset, they’ll need to overturn a projected 7.5-point spread. The biggest challenge for Minnesota will be preventing the combination of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas from having a field day against their secondary. To accomplish that goal, the Vikings’ front seven will need to play above their heads for four quarters.
Don’t rule out the possibility of Minnesota scoring a lot of point too though. The Saints have a lot of talent on defense, but corralling the likes of Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs is not an easy task. If Kirk Cousins can keep things between the lines, the Vikings have a chance at shocking the NFL.
If you want to know how to bet this game then you need to check out our exclusive Statschecker Site immediately. This piece gives you five facts you can garner from the site, but there’s no excuse for you to avoid getting all of the inside scoop before locking in your final wagers.
1. Dalvin Cook has to play well for Minnesota
The talented rusher has been banged up several times in the last few weeks, but he’s still the key for the Minnesota offense in this clash. The good news for Vikings fans is that Cook has scored at least one touchdown in his team’s last six road games against NFC opponents.
Expect the Vikings’ offense to do everything possible to get the ball in Cook’s hands in space early on. A healthy dose of that will be in the run game, but look for some screen passes to get him the ball out on the perimeter. If he can crack 100 yards from scrimmage it will give his team a quality platform to build from.
2. Alvin Kamara is still the better running back
With all due respect to Cook, he’s still the second best running back in this game. Kamara playing well isn’t an absolute requirement for the Saints, but it would be a massive boost for Sean Payton’s offense.
Kamara comes into this game on the back of scoring at least two touchdowns in his final two games of the regular season. The Vikings defense must account for him at all times if they want to hang in this game. He’s arguably a bigger threat in the passing game than he is via conventional handoffs.
3. The Vikings really struggle as underdogs
Minnesota has been a terrific front runner this year, but their efforts as underdogs haven’t been nearly as good. Zimmer’s team comes in with an ugly record of 1-4 this season when being predicted to lose.
Clearly, the Vikings will need to turn that around in a big way on Sunday if they want to score a big win. To do that, Kirk Cousins will have to play one of the best games of his career. If he doesn’t, expect to read a lot of articles on just how overpaid he is during the upcoming offseason.
4. The Saints are monsters against the spread
New Orleans hasn’t been the best team in the NFL against the spread this year, but their sparkling record of 11-5 against the number is good enough or second best in the league. That’s an intimidating number for Vikings fans looking to score the upset.
The sheer ability of Brees and this offense to light up the scoreboard gives New Orleans a great chance to cover every time they step on the field. The Vikings defense has their work cut out for them. They’ll need Brees to have an uncharacteristically sloppy game to have a fighting chance of advancing.
5. 34 points is too many
To say the Saints finished the season on a hot streak would be an understatement. They put up at least 34 points in six of their last seven wins during the regular season. If Brees and company hit that number on Sunday, they’ll be coming on to the next round of the playoffs.
The line here is the scary thing
New Orleans is a strong favorite in this game for a reason. They boast a defense that’s really stout against the run and have one of the most explosive offenses in football. Betting against Brees in this game is a great way to lose money.
However, don’t get carried away with laying a bunch of points. The Vikings are a quality football team who are more than capable of keeping this game close. The threat of a back door cover by Minnesota is very real. If you have to bet the game, go with the Saints and lay the points, but this shouldn’t be your big play for the weekend.