Defense should carry Vikings over Saints in ‘grudge’ match

Defense should carry Vikings over Saints in grudge match

The Minnesota Vikings finished the regular season with a 13-3 record, won the division, tied up a first round bye and are coming off a comprehensive victory over the Bears.

With the luxury of resting while their NFC foes battled it out last week, the Vikings have been preparing for a “grudge” match against the Saints.

In the 2009 season, the Vikings and Saints faced off in the NFC Championship game. The Saints beat the the Vikings in overtime with a game winning field goal (31-28). There was much controversy surrounding the game because of the bounty system the Saints were caught employing during the season after they won the Super Bowl.

The Saints had two unnecessary roughness penalties — one on a punt — and one roughing the passer penalty in the NFC title game, but the Vikings were livid a high-low hit by Saints defensive end Bobby McCray and defensive tackle Remi Ayodele wasn’t called. Many people assumed this was a key element in the Minnesota loss, since Saint’s players were intentionally trying to hurt players for money.

This year, the Vikings come into the game with a very different team, boasting the number one rated defense in the league plus an offense that can move the ball. The Saints come into the game with a pro bowl quarterback (Drew Brees), the top duo running back system in the league (Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara), and a revamped defense.

Although it can be said that Drew Brees has not been as big a part of the Saint’s offense this year, he did set an NFL record by completing 72 percent of his passes (386 completions on 536 attempts). He threw for 4,334 yards, the 12th season of his career with 4,000-plus passing yards, and had 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Meanwhile, Case Keenum has been a pleasant suprise for Vikings fans as he replaced the injured Sam Bradford. He led the team to an 11-3 record reviving our Super Bowl hopes. There’s been a great deal of speculation regarding whether Case Keenum’s stellar regular season play will transfer to the postseason, and whether he’ll be able to handle the pressure of his first playoff game.

I believe that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will create a good game plan for Case to follow and make his job easier so he will not feel to much pressure. The Vikings will try to establish their run game in order to set a foundation for Case to throw the ball.

Latavius Murray and Jerick Mckinnon should feel comfortable running behind a healthy line that has had a week off. On the defensive side I believe that the Saint’s run game will not be much of a factor considering how our linebackers have proven they can stop the best running backs in the game.

The X-Factor for the game will be the fans at U.S. Bank. It will be incredibly loud and make it difficult for the Saints to become organized. Brian Robinson of the Vikings said,” It will be more a revenge game for the fans.”

My prediction for the game is that the Vikings will win (24-17), capture their revenge and play either the Eagles or the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. If the Falcons were to upset the Eagles in Philadelphia, and the Vikings defeat the Saints, it would set up another enticing revenge game, since many Vikings fans still have nightmares about the Falcons 30-27 defeat of the Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship game.