The Vikings' defense has been dominant

Vikings’ Defense To Deliver Victory Over Saints

The final match of the Divisional Round is a rematch of the 2009 NFC Championship game as the Minnesota Vikings host the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints were involved in a tight battle against the Carolina Panthers last week. Sean Payton’s men were able to edge out their opponents due to a late stand on defense. However, the contest was anything but straightforward for New Orleans, digging deep to secure the victory.

Both of their star running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara were held in check for the majority of the game. Drew Brees steered the match in the Saints’ favour with a number of impressive throw downfield, including a touchdown strike for former Panther Ted Ginn Jr.

Cam Newton kept his team in the game, only to be undone by the pressure of New Orleans’ pass-rush on the final play. The defense has often been the Saints’ weakness, but this season has brought a change and they take their stout unit to face off against the number two seed Vikings.
Payton’s men defeated the Vikings in the NFC Championship game in 2009, albeit at the Super Dome, on their way to the Super Bowl. It would be poignant for them to beat them again in their quest for another Vince Lombardi trophy.

However, beating Minnesota will require a great effort. Mike Zimmer’s side boast the strongest defense in the NFL. Their pass-rush is outstanding, led by Everson Griffen. Their linebacking corps is solid, while their secondary contains two All-Pros in Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith.

The surprise this term has been the performances of Case Keenum. He was pressed into action due to Sam Bradford’s injury and has been exemplary. How he performs in the post-season will dictate if the club are able to reach the Super Bowl in their home stadium.

We’ll now break down the contest using the latest betting odds.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings' defense has been dominant

The Vikings defeated the Saints with ease in their season opener at US Bank Stadium as Bradford carved open the visitors’ defense. However, their celebrations were short-lived as the quarterback sustained a knee injury that would rule him out for the rest of the campaign. Keenum was pressed into action and struggled against the Pittsburgh Steelers, putting only nine points on the board. As the season progressed the quarterback began to find his rhythm, aided by the brilliant performances of Adam Thielen in the passing game. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph also played their part, while the club remained on course despite losing promising rookie running back Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL.

Keenum has played above expectations, but now has the challenge of raising his game further for the post-season. He threw 22 touchdowns to seven interceptions during the regular term and was aided by his side’s dominant defense. However, in the playoffs the 29-year-old will have to make clutch throws in tight windows. He has not be renowned for that type of play during his career. With Thielen, Diggs and Rudolph in his receiving corps, Keenum has a chance to take his team to the Super Bowl, but he will need to continue to defy expectations.

The Vikings finished the regular season as the number one ranked defense in the NFL in fewest points and yards allowed. Griffen is a superstar in the pass-rush and he can disrupt the opposition by dominating the line of scrimmage with Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter and Tom Johnson in support. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr provide athleticism in the linebacking unit, while Rhodes and Smith have the backend covered. It will take something special to put points on this team in the post-season.

New Orleans Saints

Brees will need to be brilliant

The Saints were in a slugfest last week against the Panthers. Both teams battled for control of the game, but Brees’ performance saw his team through to the victory. With Ingram and Kamara both limited by the Panthers’ defense, the quarterback put the game on his shoulders and threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns. It was almost not enough as Carolina had the chance to win the match late on, but sack on fourth down from Von Bell held Newton at bay.

New Orleans’ season began with an all-too familiar 0-2 start. However, they rebounded with a different approach to previous campaigns. In the past they put their hopes solely on the shoulders of Brees. This term was different as he was supported by Kamara and Ingram in the running game, while Michael Thomas enhanced his reputation as one of the leading wideouts in the NFL. They played steady offense rather than the explosive plays of old, although Kamara still provided a lot of exciting moments out of the backfield. It was reminiscent of the style that won them the Super Bowl in the 2009 campaign – which could well yield the same result this time around.

The defense has improved significantly under the tenure of Dennis Allen. Cam Jordan has been outstanding in the pass-rush, working almost single-handed. His performances earned him an All-Pro berth and he continued his fine season with a destructive outing against the Panthers. Marshon Lattimore has been lockdown in the secondary and his battle with Thielen could well decide the contest. Injuries have started to affect them down the stretch and it could be one game too far for the unit, especially on the road against a quality outfit.

Betting Options

The Vikings have lost just once at home this season and could be the first team to play the Super Bowl inside their home stadium by winning out. Zimmer’s men have been lockdown against the pass and run this season, which will provide a huge test of Brees and his offense. The Saints do not have a plethora of offensive weapons to expose Minnesota’s secondary. Their quality is concentrated in Kamara, Ingram and Thomas, with complementary pieces outside of them.

As a result, the Vikings should be able to hold them in check to allow Keenum to put enough points on the board. Back Zimmer’s men at odds of -227   with BetOnline. It will be a close contest, but the Vikings look a solid option on the -5 spread at odds of -110   with Betway. Minnesota held teams to an average of 15.8 points per game in the regular season, back them to hold the Saints to under 19.5 at -119   with 888Sport. Diggs had a receiving touchdown in each of his last three matches – back him to find the endzone anytime at odds of +175   with 888Sport.

Tips Summary

Minnesota Vikings To Beat New Orleans Saints
Sunday 14th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: -227

Minnesota Vikings To Cover -5 Spread
Sunday 14th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: -110

New Orleans Saints To Score Under 19.5 Points
Sunday 14th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: -119

Stefon Diggs To Score Touchdown Anytime
Sunday 14th January 2018 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)
Odds: +175

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