Divisional Round Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At Minnesota Vikings
- QuarterbackThe Saints have had one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees, and the biggest difference this year is that Brees has the support of a game-changing running game and a solid defense. Brees is unfailingly accurate as he completed 72.0 percent of his passes and he reads defenses as well as any quarterback. Brees is a brilliant attribute in a postseason game.The Vikings have proven their mettle all season, and no player has done more for the team than Case Keenum. After starting the season as the backup for Sam Bradford, Keenum came off the bench when Bradford couldn’t play. Keenum built an excellent rapport with his offensive teammates, threw for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
- OffenseThe Saints have developed a sensational running game as Mark Ingram (1,124 rushing yards, 12 TDs) has had his best season and rookie Alvin Kamara (728 rushing yards, 81 receptions) has had an excellent year as a runner and a receiver. Michael Thomas is a big-play receiver with excellent hands and route-running skills. Ted Ginn has game-changing speed at the No. 2 wideout position.The Vikings have dealt with adversity throughout the season, and when they lost rookie running back Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have given the Vikings a solid running attack. Murray is capable of absorbing contact and maintaining his balance. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have formed a first-rate pass-catching duo, while Kyle Rudolph is an excellent tight end.
- DefenseAfter operating with one of the worst defenses in the league in previous years, the Saints improved quite a bit this year and made game-changing plays on a regular basis. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has set the tone for this unit with 13.0 regular-season sacks, and he is also solid against the run. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore had five interceptions and 23 passes defensed.The Vikings have had a good-to-excellent defense throughout Mike Zimmer’s tenure as head coach, and this has been a sensational year for this unit. They have the top-ranked defense in the league, and linebacker Eric Kendricks has a team-leading 113 tackles and is a big hitter. Free safety Harrison Smith has five interceptions and 17 passes defensed, while Everson Griffen has 13.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Saints have held their own on special teams, and that represents improvement over previous seasons. Ginn has a chance to be a gamechanger in the postseason, while placekicker Wil Lutz is a dependable kicker who made 32-of-36 FG attempts.The Vikings had been one of the most dangerous return teams in the league, but they took a downturn this year. While they do an adequate job in punt and kickoff coverage, they have not had a return longer than 46 years this season. Kai Forbath made 32-of-38 FG attempts this season.
The Saints have an excellent chance to keep this game close. While Keenum has been impressive, Brees gives the Saints a physical and emotional edge. Minnesota has the stronger defense and home field advantage. Should be a tight game that swings the home team’s way in the fourth quarter.