The Vikings’ offense has evolved drastically from the start of the 2017 season. From Case Keenum‘s rise to power following Sam Bradford‘s short tenure as starting quarterback, to Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon‘s entrance to the fold to fill the void left by Dalvin Cook, the Vikings offense has shifted into a multi-faceted, well-oiled machine. This machine has functioned at such an elite level primarily because of the way Keenum has orchestrated the Vikings’ offense with excellent game management and a serviceable vertical threat.
Like any elite offense, the Vikings have adapted based on the strengths of the defensive unit they face. With the Saints’ secondary looking stronger than ever, it will be interesting to see where the Vikings offense leans.
While this is a week one rematch, this week’s game will be unrecognizable from week one. This is due in large part to how vastly different both teams’ personnel and gameplans are from the start of the season. I already addressed some of the substantial changes made by the Vikings over the course of the season. The Saints have also evolved since the beginning of the season, however their changes have been mostly solutions to inherent flaws in play style as opposed to necessary substitutions due to injury. Most notably, the Saints have relied less on the talents of quarterback Drew Brees and more on their running back duo, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Meanwhile, the Saints defense has strengthened significantly since the start of the season. Specifically, they have rallied behind Rookie of the Year candidate, Marshon Lattimore.
In the second clash of the season, it will be interesting to see what the Vikings’ offense will rely on since the Saints have bolstered their defense. Murray will likely play a large role. He has since recovering from his ankle soreness from earlier in the season. Murray will likely be the workhorse in the running game because of New Orleans’ less-than-stellar defensive front. Also expect some short pass involvement for McKinnon and Kyle Rudolph. And of course, there should be plenty of action for Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
I also expect Keenum to excel at game management under pressure. He has the rare opportunity to bring the Vikings to a hometown Super Bowl win, which would be the first in franchise history. On top of that, he could re-energize his career with a deep postseason run. After half a decade as a stop gap, a franchise tag from the Vikings could be on the horizon.
For once, the Vikings have the offensive firepower to compete in a shootout. They likely will not have to, as the defense has only allowed 24 points or more three times this season. But they have the weapons and the balance to go toe-to-toe with one of the premier offenses in football.
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– Mark Gabreski writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings.