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Saints at Vikings: NFC Divisional Playoff Betting Preview

New Orleans Saints (12-5 ) @ Minnesota Vikings(13-3)

  • Where: U.S. Bank Stadium . Minneapolis, MN
  • When: January 14, 2018 4:40 pm EST
  • Spread: Saints (+4) at Vikings (-4)
  • Moneyline: Saints (+170) at Vikings (-200)
  • Over / Under: Over 46.5 (-110) Under 46.5 (-110)

If the Pittsburgh vs Jacksonville game is Sunday’s battle of monster trucks, then the Saints vs Vikings is a drag race between 2 Ferraris.

New Orleans was left for dead after starting 0-2. With the dreary start following a pair of frustrating seasons under Sean Peyton, fans and pundits alike began to think that nothing would resurrect Drew Brees’ career except for a new coaching staff or change of scenery.

But as Bill Parcells likes to say, “every year is a new deal.” The defense found itself, Brees began to connect with WR Michael Thomas, and the team’s ground game became so dominant that the franchise traded Adrian Peterson away without skipping a beat. The Saints went on a marvelous winning streak and beat the Panthers twice en route to an NFC South title.

The 13-3 Vikings have played pretty good defense themselves – good enough to overcome the loss of starting QB Sam Bradford. But that’s not to sell backup Case Keenum short. The 29-year old Houston product has performed brilliantly, passing for almost 3500 yards and tossing 22 touchdowns. Physical receiver Adam Thielen has established himself as a game-breaking athlete on the outside.

Bradford has been healing and getting back into playing shape, but coaches are more than happy to stick with the hot hand. Keenum has also won the respect of bettors…even over the legendary Brees. Host Minnesota opened as a (-205) money line favorite, and the odds for the NFC Divisional Playoff clash haven’t changed much over several days of action.

Minny Miracle

How exactly does a football team have a dominant season without the star QB it planned on utilizing? Keenum is not an upgrade over Bradford overall, but has brought a fresh skill-set to the table, scrambling for 300+ yards and improving his accuracy leaps-and-bounds over what it was with the Rams. The biggest story, however, is a Viking defense that has been called “dominant on 3 levels” by former All-Pro DB Darren Woodson among others.

“3 levels” usually refers to prep, college and pro football, but in this case it’s a reference to a big, plundering DL, swift LBs and a talented secondary at the top of its game. Everson Griffen has 13 sacks on the year, Harrison Smith has 5 interceptions, and Eric Kendricks has over 100 combined tackles. Minnesota held playoff teams like Los Angeles and Atlanta to less than 10 points, and shut-out the Packers in December.

Is there an Achilles Heel? We’re not sure if the Vikings are set up to make a Super Bowl run. The offense and defense may not complement one another as the postseason goes forward.

The running game is pedestrian. Latavius Murray is leading the charge (trudge) with less than 4 ypc. When a championship team depends on passing to score points, the defense can live with decent results against the run (efforts to bleed the clock from the start against a high-powered aerial attack are usually doomed) but it must have a dominant pass-rush to avert comeback attempts and force turnovers in key situations. Minnesota’s pass rush hasn’t been mediocre, but it’s not incredible – the squad has under 1.5 sacks per game if you take away Griffin’s numbers.

A noisy home crowd will help the front-7 pressure Brees. But it won’t help the OL run-block any better against a stout defensive front, and it certainly won’t help Keenum out-play a future Hall of Famer. Minnesota may not win TOP…and its offense has suffered more negative plays than the defense has forced.

Marching in…to Minneapolis

So the formula for beating the Vikings is clear. Out-rush them, force negative plays on defense, and take advantage when there’s time to pass from the pocket. Can the New Orleans Saints do that against an excellent roster? Sure. They’ve done it twice in recent memory.

The Saints dominated the Carolina Panthers on December 3rd, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara each rushing for over 6 yards per carry while Brees out-shined his counterpart Cam Newton.

A few weeks later, New Orleans scored a revenge-win over Atlanta to clinch a playoff birth, holding the Falcons to just 67 yards on the ground and sacking Matt Ryan 5 times.

But those games were at home. What about road losses to the same Falcons, the Rams and – ominously – the Vikings in Week 1? New Orleans came close in the former pair of games, suffering hard luck. The team was a leaping Deion Jones interception away from beating Atlanta twice, and you can throw out the Week 17 road loss to Tampa Bay as the Saints had little to play for.

An indication of the squad’s high ceiling on the road came in a mid-season 47-10 thrashing of Buffalo, and more important than the score is the fashion in which the game was won. Ingram and Kamara were scary-dominant as the offense amassed almost 300 rushing yards, and the ‘D harassed Buffalo’s QBs relentlessly. Neither feat was easy in a hostile environment against a playoff team, but the Saints made it look that way.

Saints at Vikings money line pick

Click to place a money line bet on the Saints to upset the Vikings on Sunday and receive a $250 sign-up bonus from Bovada.

MSB feels that New Orleans has a 50/50 chance of advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota may not have the chemistry nor ultimately the quarterback to contend with Brees…given that the veteran has an indomitable ground game as a buoy.

With the odds at (+170) for the visitors, that’s all you need to know. Pick the New Orleans Saints to prevail on the money line in Minny.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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