Third down, red zone battles will key Vikings-Saints matchup

Erica Murray
January 13, 2018

Last time they met: New Orleans lost to Minnesota on the road in the first week of the 2017 season, but Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook were the key offensive cogs for the Vikings then, and the Saints were a completely different team. "I believe they can move on to their third NFC Championship game". It's this simple: If he is, the Vikes probably win easily. As such, they'll be exposed by the Saints on Sunday.

Just because the Vikings won handily in Week 1, it does not mean Sunday's playoff game will have a similar result.

Case Keenum took over for Bradford and has been remarkable in leading the Vikings (13-3) to an NFC North title. New Orleans has five playoff wins in that time.

The Saints know they must stick to the run even if the Vikings stack the box. That isn't enough to negate the advantage Brees has over Keenum. The latest they could make a move would be the week leading into the Super Bowl on January 24, should they still be playing.

This should be a hard fought game for the millions watching at home and a massive crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Panthers paid a dear price for the strategy in their 31-26 wild-card loss at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. So if the Vikings are going to overcome any potential hiccups from Keenum, they'll need Murray and McKinnon to exploit that.

That isn't much better than his yards-per-carry in the first matchup between the two teams in Week 1 of the regular season. "Wear them down. Eventually it's going to pop at some point in the game".

Keenum is in his fifth National Football League season, but 2017 was the first year in which he started more than nine games. He intercepted Jameis Winston twice in Week 17 and recorded eight tackles against the Panthers last weekend.

A Super Bowl which returns to Minneapolis after that city beat out New Orleans in the bidding for a big game, which the mayor wanted to be played here for the city's tricentennial.

Prediction: The Vikings are the slightly better all-around team, but I don't trust Keenum against an opportunistic defense.

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