The Vikings began 2020 with a playoff game in the Superdome; they'll end it by seeing their faint postseason hopes officially reduced to zero. A depleted Vikings front that gave up 199 rushing yards on Sunday will struggle to contain the Saints' run game, and New Orleans will officially eliminate the Vikings from playoff contention.
THREE STORY LINES
One last shot
The Vikings' only chance for their first back-to-back playoff berths since 2008-09 hinges on their ability to win their final two games and get quite a bit of help from the teams playing the Cardinals and Bears. A loss on Friday means they're officially eliminated from the NFC playoff race; a win would give them a chance to root for the 49ers against Arizona and the Jaguars against Chicago.
Jefferson takes his award campaign home
Wide receiver Justin Jefferson grew up in St. Rose, La., played college football at LSU and won a national championship in the Superdome in January. He'll play in front of his family and a reduced crowd of Saints fans on Friday, a week after breaking Randy Moss' Vikings rookie record for receptions, and try to continue his bid for the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Familiar faces meet again
This will be the Vikings' third trip to the Superdome in the past 16 months (dating back to the 2019 preseason opener), after the Saints made three trips to U.S. Bank Stadium from Sept. 2017-Oct. 2018. Mike Zimmer and Sean Payton are old friends from their time on Bill Parcells' staff, and the Vikings have seen the Saints so much that wide receiver Adam Thielen said this week it almost feels like a division game.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings' run defense vs. Saints RB Alvin Kamara
The Vikings won't face the injured Michael Thomas, but it won't just be Kamara they have to worry about on Friday — former Minnesota running back Latavius Murray remains a key part of the offense, and the Saints will have packages for quarterback Taysom Hill. Kamara represents the biggest threat to a defense that couldn't contain David Montgomery last week. Kamara's caught 80 passes this season, and the Saints will line him up in different spots to get him the ball as a receiver.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
Lattimore has had some physical matchups with Adam Thielen over the years, but he could see more of Jefferson at the "X" receiver spot Friday. The three-time Pro Bowler has struggled at times this year, but will still give Jefferson a challenge, especially if the Saints let him press the rookie receiver.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
425: Number of rushing yards the Saints have allowed to the Eagles and Chiefs the past two weeks. New Orleans had given up only 412 yards on the ground in its previous seven games (all wins).
The Vikings will win if …
Dalvin Cook can have the kind of day he had in the playoff game in the Superdome, while the Vikings find enough ways to slow down the Saints' running game and put pressure on Drew Brees in his second game back from 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung.
The Saints will win if …
They can slow down the Vikings' attempts to run the ball in a variety of situations, make Kirk Cousins think twice about trying to find Jefferson or Thielen downfield, and let Kamara match Montgomery's day last week in terms of workload and effectiveness.
Goessling's prediction: Saints 27, Vikings 17