In the NFL playoffs, the star players step up in the spotlight. Here’s a look at the key players at six positions in Sunday’s Vikings-Saints matchup.
Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees
• Brees is the most accurate passer (. 676) in NFL history and has won a Super Bowl. Cousins has none of Brees’ accolades and has been saddled with the reputation of not being ready for prime time. Still, he has a 133.2 passer rating in three games against New Orleans.
Running backs Dalvin cook, Alvin Kamara
• Kamara had a forgettable year thanks to shoulder and knee injuries, but the rushing and receiving threat is back to full health. Cook’s shoulder and chest injuries kept him on the sidelines for the final two weeks of the season. He led the NFL in rushing through the first half of the season.
Wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas
• Thomas set an NFL record with 149 receptions, while Diggs was fourth in yards per catch (17.9). And let’s not forget Diggs’ Minneapolis Miracle reception decided the teams’ playoff meeting after the 2017 season. A key for the Vikings will be limiting the number of quick-hitting passes from Brees to Thomas.
Edge defenders Danielle Hunter, Cameron Jordan
• Jordan (15½) and Hunter (14½) were third and fourth in the NFL in sacks and were 1-2 among defensive linemen. Brees played in only 11 games because of injury but was sacked only 12 times. Cousins is less active in the pocket, but his sack total (28 in 16 games) was not overly concerning.
Linebackers Eric Kendricks, Demario Davis
• Kendricks finally broke through with an All-Pro nod in 2019. Davis was also an All-Pro. Kendricks will have a crucial role in pass coverage, especially against Kamara, after leading NFL linebackers in passes defensed. Davis is a one-man wrecking crew who had 87 solo tackles during the season.
Wild cards Deonte Harris, Adam Thielen
• Harris led the NFL in punt return yardage (9.37) and is an All-Pro. The challenge will be for Vikings punter Britton Colquitt, who did not have a touchback this season, to somehow avoid giving Harris a chance to shine. Thielen had only 30 catches in 10 games for the Vikings but still could be a game-changer.