Feel free to celebrate Christmas Day with a game between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of the Minneapolis Miracle from three years ago. This time around, the Saints are 7-point favorites at home, with the over/under at set at 51.5 points.
After back-to-back losses to the Eagles and Chiefs, New Orleans is now 10-4 and facing an uphill battle with regard to earning the no. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The good news is that the Saints only need to win one of their final two games to clinch the NFC South and secure at least one home game in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are barely hanging onto playoff hopes after losing to the Chicago Bears last week. Minnesota overcame a 1-5 start to get into the playoff race. But with three losses in their previous five games, the Vikings are 6-8 and need to win two games while getting a lot of help to make the playoffs.
Run With Anyone
Despite back-to-back losses, the Vikings continue to have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL behind Dalvin Cook. After gaining 132 yards on 24 carries last, Cook has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games to set the tone for the Minnesota offense. At the same time, Kirk Cousins has been steady and mostly mistake-free during the second half of the season. The only caveat is that Cousins has been sacked 13 times in his last three games thanks to lackluster play from the offensive line.
That’s a weakness that the New Orleans defense will have to exploit to keep the Vikings in check. The Saints got a hold of Patrick Mahomes four times last week and actually did a good job of limiting the potent Kansas City passing attack to just 5.4 yards per pass. However, stopping the run has suddenly been a concern for the Saints, who gave up 246 rushing yards to the Eagles two weeks ago. In fairness, New Orleans won’t have to worry about a mobile quarterback this week, which should help.
A Cool Brees
The Saints got Drew Brees back from injury last week, although it wasn’t exactly a successful return. Brees was rusty, especially early in the game. He ended up with just 15 completions on 34 passes despite throwing three touchdown passes. Until he gets back on track, it’ll be critical for the Saints to get Alvin Kamara and their running game going. Kamara has been bottled up in recent weeks and isn’t making the same impact as a pass-catcher. With Michael Thomas missing the rest of the regular season, Kamara’s presence is even more critical for the New Orleans offense.
The good news for the Saints is that the Minnesota defense has been unreliable for much of the season. The Vikings have been sluggish when it comes to stopping the run and lack a formidable pass rush. On the season, the Vikings are conceding over 27 points per game and looked helpless last week while giving up 33 points to Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears.
Run and Fun
It’s tough to believe in either of these teams after back-to-back losses. Of course, the onus is on the Saints to cover, which could be challenging if they can’t slow down Cook. Plus, Brees isn’t quite himself right now, especially with Thomas out and Kamara struggling. With that in mind, bet on the Vikings to beat the spread, even if they lose.