Eric Kendricks vs. Alvin Kamara
As will be discussed later, the Vikings have already declared Anthony Barr out for Sunday. As such, much of the focus with regards to defending Alvin Kamara will rest on the shoulders of Eric Kendricks. Kendricks has a history with Kamara dating back to the 2017 postseason when Kamara scored a touchdown over Kendricks on a wheel route. That route (and receiving backs like Kamara in general) has been the bane of the Vikings defense this year. If they hope to put a clamp on the Saints’ prolific passing game, they will have to keep Kamara out of open space as much as possible.
Adam Thielen vs. Eli Apple
Given that Adam Thielen is the leading receiver in all of football, one would think the Saints sic talented young corner Marshon Lattimore on him. The two are squared up in the photo for this article, after all. And you can bet they will get their licks at each other. However, the bigger matchup is the one Thielen will likely face with the Saints’ new acquisition, Eli Apple. Lattimore will almost certainly remain on the edge in pass coverage, as he has done in his first year and a half in the league. Apple, however, is more apt to move inside to cover the slot. Thielen moves inside and out as much as any elite receiver, and often does his best work going out of the slot and playing off Stefon Diggs. Given Apple’s occasional struggles in his still-young career, chances are John DeFilippo will look to exploit this matchup whenever he comes across it.
Brian O’Neill vs. Cameron Jordan
While Riley Reiff did return to practice this week, he is listed as doubtful, so rookie Brian O’Neill will likely get another start. And they do not get much tougher than Saints end Cameron Jordan. Coming off arguably his best season, Jordan is showing no signs of slowing down with five sacks in six games. He went up against another rookie tackle last week in Orlando Brown, and the Ravens helped Brown out with consistent chips and double teams. O’Neill has been solid in his limited NFL action, so he may face a few more one-on-ones with Jordan. But a steady diet of six- and seven-man protections should be on the menu.
The injuries are piling up on the Minnesota offensive line. As stated above, Reiff is doubtful, so Rashod Hill will probably get another start at left tackle with O’Neill in on the right side. Guard Tom Compton has been ruled out, leaving second year guard Danny Isidora to fill in there as he did a week ago. Other players ruled out include Anthony Barr, Dalvin Cook and Andrew Sendejo, with Eric Wilson, Latavius Murray and George Iloka likely taking their respective roles. Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes are questionable.
Most notably, Everson Griffen has no injury designation. That seems to imply that he intends on playing Sunday. He has missed the last five games for well-documented non-injury-related reasons.
The Saints come in fairly healthy with only one player, reserve defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen, listed as out.
Madison Parkhill: Minnesota 30, New Orleans 27
This game has been circled on the calendar since the schedule was released. Both teams faced some early adversity, but have rebounded to look like potential contenders. The Vikings defense has started to return to form as of late, and Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara have been on fire to start the season. The key matchup will probably be the Vikings’ D-line versus the Saints’ O-line. With the return of Everson Griffen, I think the Vikings have the slight advantage there. I expect the Vikings to edge out a close victory in a yet another close game with the Saints.
– Madison Parkhill writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings. Follow him @MadPark44.
Clayton Brooks: Minnesota 31, New Orleans 27
The Saints and Vikings face off for the third time in 13 months. The Saints are coming in as arguably the hottest team in the NFC (after the Rams). That being said, the Vikings are also heating up at the right time, having won their last three games. The defense in particular has been rounding back into form during these past few weeks.
This game will be a huge test for Minnesota. A win on Sunday would re-establish them as the favorite to challenge the Rams in the NFC playoffs. A loss could cause damage to the momentum they’ve spent these past few weeks building as they will run a gauntlet through their division over the following three weeks. With the return of their leader, Everson Griffen, I think it gives the team an emotional boost. Pair that with a top-10 passing attack and the home crowd against a poor Saints pass defense, and I think the Vikings have just enough to send the Saints home with their first loss in six weeks.
– Clayton Brooks writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings. Follow him @ClaytonRBrooks2.
Sam Smith: New Orleans 27, Minnesota 26
Admittedly, I have picked against the Vikings in two-straight home games against New Orleans. Both times, I was wrong. Well, why not go for the trifecta? Minnesota is getting proper footing finally, especially on defense, but the Saints have separated themselves a bit from the cluster of middling NFC teams. Right now, I would seed the conference thus: the Rams, a large gap, the Saints and then the Vikings. Drew Brees is playing out of his mind and their run defense is doing enough to make up for their lackluster pass defense.
Overall, these two teams are evenly matched. But I favor Brees and company over Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense for one big reason: Cousins has played worse at home this year. I think he will get his against a struggling New Orleans secondary, but ultimately, the Saints win with a late field goal, just like how the Division Round game last year looked to have ended before a few heroics.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith
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