The Vikings have beaten the Saints twice in 13 months at U.S. Bank Stadium, but with injuries at a number of key positions on defense, they could have a tough time slowing down Drew Brees and company in time to get a third victory against New Orleans, especially if it’s a big day for Alvin Kamara.
Three Big Story Lines
Moving on from the miracle
The Vikings and Saints have both taken great pains this week not to frame Sunday’s game as any kind of grudge match after Minnesota’s 29-24 victory in the playoffs. That hasn’t stopped the questions about Stefon Diggs’ game-winning TD in January, but both teams have plenty to play for this year.
Brees at his best
The quarterback, who turned 39 the day after the Vikings’ playoff victory over the Saints, could be on his way to his first league MVP award in his 18th season. He has completed a league-high 77.3 percent of his passes this season, throwing 13 for touchdowns without an interception.
Griffen ready to return
Defensive end Everson Griffen came back to the Vikings this week following his five-week absence while receiving treatment for mental health issues, and he’s expected to play Sunday night. It remains to be seen what kind of a role the three-time Pro Bowl selection will have.
Two Key Matchups
Vikings secondary vs. Saints WR Michael Thomas
If Xavier Rhodes, who is questionable for the game because of a sprained ankle, is able to play, he likely will be matched up with the physical receiver. If Rhodes can’t go, the task of covering Thomas will fall to Trae Waynes, Holton Hill and others. In any case, Thomas’ size and his connection with Brees make him one of the Vikings’ big concerns Sunday night.
Vikings RT Brian O’Neill vs. Saints DE Cameron Jordan
The Vikings rookie right tackle will get a tough assignment Sunday night in the All-Pro pass rusher, who lines up primarily on the left side of the New Orleans defensive formation. Jordan has five sacks already this season, and he finished with 13 a year ago.
One Stat That Matters
17.6 The percentage of dropbacks where Saints quarterbacks have been pressured this season, according to Football Outsiders. That percentage is the lowest in the NFL.
The Vikings Will Win If …
They are able to get some pressure on Brees without having to blitz him, keep Kamara from burning them in the passing game the way other running backs have and get enough production from Kirk Cousins and company if they are forced to trade scores with the Saints.
The Opponent Will Win If …
They can put enough pressure on Cousins to make things difficult for the quarterback, while Brees finds ways to get the ball in the hands of such playmakers as Kamara and Thomas in time to exploit the injuries on the back two levels of the Vikings defense.
Goesslings prediction: Saints 28-27
Win probability: 50 percent