No one on Inside The NFL has picked the Vikings over the Saints for Sunday’s game. No one at The Athletic believes the Vikings will win. Most of the Vikings beat writers have little confidence in the home team.
And the NFL itself has no respect for the Vikings, leaving the team out entirely in it’s playoffs hype trailer.
So, yeah, to say the Vikings are underdogs is quite the understatement.
The Vikings Can Win If, If, If…
I was beginning to convince myself that there was a way the Vikings could walk out of the Superdome with a win on Sunday but it it was built on a foundation of ifs:
- If Good Kirk Cousins showed up
- If the offensive line gave him time to throw and room for Dalvin Cook to run
- If the offense could establish the run in order for the play-action pass to work and to which the Saints are vulnerable
- If the Vikings defensive tackles could generate pressure up the middle
- If Xavier Rhodes could be inspired to play to his capability and slow down Micheal Thomas
- If Eric Kendricks is at full health and full speed
- If the Vikings can generate some turnovers like the two interceptions they made off Drew Brees during their 2017 NFC Divisional Playoff victory.
But Then There’s….
But that was before news broke that slot cornerback Mackenzie Alexander would not play and fellow corner Mike Hughes was placed on injured reserve.
So the Vikings will have to face Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, and Jared Cook with safety Jayron Kearse, cornerbacks Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd and break-glass-in-case-of-emergency corner, Marcus Sherels.
Mike Zimmer has created very successful defensive game plans against the Saints. Even in the loss last year, Zimmer’s defense kept Brees to 120 yards and an 84.8 passer rating.
But the loss of Alexander and Hughes is pretty devestating and proves Mike Zimmer‘s contention that you can never have enough cornerbacks. The head coach will have his hands full dealing with Brees et al without his top slot corner and the rapidly improving Hughes.
Run, Vikings, Run
If the Vikings are going to have a chance, they’ll need to be able to run the ball effectively. That means an offensive line that shows up and a healthy Cook and Alexander Mattison.
The Saints defense is vulnerable play-action and screen passes–where the Vikings excel–but it will mean nothing at all if the Vikings can’t run on them.
I suspect, given the loss of Alexander and Mattison and the poor year Rhodes has had this year, that in order to win, the Vikings will have to do it in a shootout.
I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t have the faith that Cousins can prevail over Brees in that type of a game.