Happy 2018 y’all. It’s been months since my last post. Hopefully one or two of you remember me. I couldn’t pass up the chance to write a blog previewing the first Vikings playoff matchup this year — the year they’re facing the highest expectations since before I was born. So here goes.
We all remember Week 1: Vikings throttle the Saints 29-19, and people write New Orleans off as a sub-par squad that’ll probably miss the playoffs. We’ve also all seen this week’s headlines: the Saints are not the same team. AP tied for second in carries, Kamara was nowhere near the threat he is now, and Brees’ biggest weapon through the air was Mark Ingram and Coby Fleener (who is now on IR). Yep, not today’s Saints.
But, frankly, the Vikings are the changed team here. It’s the story of the NFL this season. Week 1: Bradford — 27/32, 346 passing yards, 3 TD. Cook — 127 yards on 22 carries. These are the two most important players in that game, and they won’t see the field Sunday.
This isn’t a rematch of the Week 1 matchup. This is a new animal. That said, here are my three keys to a Vikings win. They’re obvious concepts, but hopefully some stats and my genius input will add some value to the main points. I’ll keep it quick.
1. Case Keenum
While the Vikings’ strength undoubtedly comes from Griffen, Smith, Rhodes and company, they can’t get stuck on the field the whole game against a quarterback as good as Drew Brees. Taking care of the ball, keeping the clock running, and putting points on the board are the three things the offense can do to take control of this ball game.
2. Stop the run
The two-headed monster that is Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara can wreck some teams. They’re scary. Ingram finished the regular season fifth in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,124 and second in TDs with 12, behind only Gurley’s 13. The issue with him is that you can’t just target him out of the backfield, as Kamara racked up 728 yards and eight touchdowns. When Ingram isn’t on the field, the Vikings can’t rule out the run. Plus, both of these backs can catch and run, as well.
They’re gonna be a threat, so it’s a good thing the Vikings have the second-best run-defense in the league on the basis of yards allowed per game at 83.6 (Eagles 79.2).
3. Limit secondary receivers
Michael Thomas isn’t my biggest worry through the air. We got a guy there — that Rhodes closed. Drew Brees is going to target the running backs mentioned above, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead IV. But again, if there’s a team that can shut all that down, it’s the Vikings. They have the star power and the depth to keep up with all those New Orleans weapons, and I can’t wait to watch it.
These three items, along with getting on the board early and winning the special teams game, are what will bring the purple to the promised land.
Skol Vikes. Check out the following next and get excited for Sunday.
The best sports hype video you’ve ever seen.
The Sports Section Podcast — these guys know their Vikings and Timberwolves.
2 Jabronis Talk Sports Podcast — these two dig in to all four playoff matchups this weekend.