Season prediction record: 4-2-1
In truncated fashion, let’s sneak in a pick for Sunday night’s tilt.
Facing each other for the third time in about 13 months, the Vikings-Saints should be playing inside a playoff-type atmosphere at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday night. Minnesota has won three straight, New Orleans five straight, and the second seed in the NFC is very much on the forefront of fans’ minds at the halfway point of the season.
Betting money has been pouring in on the Saints with the line shifting four points from Vikings -1.5 to Saints -2.5. That’s a lot of faith from the public for a team that lost twice last year in Minneapolis — as many times as the Vikings have lost in their building in the last 13 tries.
The Vikings injuries are an area of concern with Xavier Rhodes out, contrary to an earlier report, but Everson Griffen returned this week from a month-long hiatus to address his mental health, and Linval Joseph appears primed to return from a one-week absence.
Andrew Sendejo (groin) and Anthony Barr (hamstring) will also be missing from the defense, with Tom Compton (knee) and Dalvin Cook (hamstring) out on offense.
The Vikings aren’t a perfect picture of health, but they’ve won three in a row with numerous starters out and should get an emotional bump from the home crowd.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has actually fared well against Drew Brees — that is, until the second half of last year’s playoff game. Prior to that, Brees had been held to 20 points, 19 points and zero first half points in the 2.5 games preceding his explosion last January.
Would the Vikings like to get in a shootout with Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and high-scoring Saints? Probably not. But their success against the Saints secondary last year should be a boost to their confidence. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined to average over 200 yards in both games, and the Saints have struggled in pass defense this season, ranking 28th.
BOTTOM LINE: The Vikings scored 29 in both their wins against the Saints a year ago, so why not 29 again? Minnesota controls the tempo and takes it 29-21, marking the fourth straight year they’ve had at least a four-game winning streak.