Minnesota Vikings +6.5 (+250) @ New Orleans Saints -6.5 (-303) O/U 51.5
Minnesota enters this game off of back-to-back losses to Chicago and Tampa Bay which have pushed them to the verge of elimination. Minnesota would now need a win here and a loss by the Cardinals just to stay in the playoff race. It’s been a disappointing season for Minnesota who sits with just a 6-8 record and a 6-8 Against the Spread record. There have been bright spots though. Rookie Justin Jefferson looks like he may go down as one of the steals of the first round as he already has 1143 yards and 7 TDs on the year.
Jefferson’s big play ability has been a big reason why Minnesota has even been competitive this season as their defense has been putrid for much of 2020 and they continue to deal with injuries this week. Eric Kendricks has been their best LB but is questionable for this game. David Montgomery ran for a career high 146-yards and 2 TDs against them last week without Kendricks around so Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara could be in line for monster days.
On the flip side of the equation though is the Saints, who are now coming in off of back-to-back losses and need a win here to clinch the NFC South (and stay in the hunt for the number one seed). New Orleans put up a valiant comeback late last week against Kansas City but Drew Brees’ return was anything but spectacular as he completed just 15 of 34-passes.
Brees looked better late in the game but the Chiefs are notorious for giving up tons of yards in that situation so it’s hard to be too bullish on what he did late there. The Vikings do present him with a great, “get right” spot though. Minnesota has allowed a 96.8 passer rating by opposing QBs this year (the eighth-highest mark in the league) and rank just 26th in sacks per game.
Injuries here on both sides are big though and the Saints figure to be very shorthanded at WR. Michael Thomas is on IR and Trequan Smith, who got banged up last week, is questionable to play in this game. That would leave Brees with just Emmanuel Sanders and some kind of combo of Marquez Callaway and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Expect the Saints to do everything they can to get their RBs involved here, both on the ground and in the screen game.
Minnesota’s lack of versatility on defense will hurt them again, but the Saints will need a bounce back effort from their defense, as they don’t want to be playing catchup against a potent Vikes offense. New Orleans has allowed an average of 28-points against in their last two games so forcing Kirk Cousins into as many bad decisions as possible–he’s 2-3 against NFC South opponents in his career with the Vikings–will be key.
- LB Eric Kendricks (questionable)
- TE Kyle Rudolph (questionable)
- WR Trequan Smith (questionable)
- Michael Thomas (IR)
Saints offense vs Vikings defense
The Saints will be shorthanded at wide receiver for this week’s game but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t score points. New Orleans is averaging a healthy 4.4 YPC this year (13th in the league) and are seventh overall in rush yards per game. They seem likely to be going up against a Minnesota defense here who will be without its best linebacker in Eric Kendricks. The Vikings got absolutely smashed last week without him by Bears RB David Montgomery who put up 146 yards on the ground alone. Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray could both have big games in this spot and it is worth noting that the Saints will use both as receivers–both caught TDs last week.
A lack of depth doesn’t necessarily mean that the Saints can’t attack the Vikings secondary though. Minnesota could be without Cam Dantzler at CB here, and even if he does play, he really hasn’t been very good this year anyways. Minnesota has allowed the second-most TDs to the WR position this year and could still have trouble with the Saints speedy, albeit, untested receivers. Lil’Jordan Humphry and Marquez Callaway have looked capable when given shots this year (Humphrey scored last week in garbage time) and Emmanuel Sanders is still a threat working from the slot.
The other factor that could work in favour of the Saints passing game is the Vikes lack of pass rush. Minnesota ranks just 26th in sacks per game so Drew Brees should have time in the pocket here to dissect which option is working best. Brees is very much the X-factor though. He started last week 0-6 with an INT and by the time he started rolling the game was essentially out of reach. A slow start by him would work against New Orleans strength (rushing) and put them in a game of chase against a potent offense. NO has the edge here but it’s dependent on Brees to capitalize on it.
Vikings offense vs Saints defense
The Vikings offense is one of the more overlooked units in the league. They’re ranked inside the top-10 in a lot of offensive categories including total yards per game and rush yards per game. Despite having two elite WRs, the straw that stirs the drink here is still Dalvin Cook. He’s second in the league in rush attempts this year (297) but has also caught 42-receptions. New Orleans is a tough matchup as they’ve allowed just 3.8 YPC against on the year, which is second-best in the league. The Saints haven’t looked as good in this area though lately as they have allowed 5.44 YPC and three rushing TDs to opposing RBs in the last two games. If this trend continues and Cook gets off to a hot start, things could get ugly fast for New Orleans given the state of their offense.
If Cook is stuffed early, Minnesota also has the weapons to play catch-up though through the air. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson have combined for 1953 yards and 20-TDs this year but will be going up against some solid corners here in Marshawn Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. Still, the matchup favours Minnesota. Justin Jefferson is averaging 2.65 yards per route run (per PFF) which puts him third in the league in that stat, right behind the most dominant receiver in the league in Davante Adams. Minnesota has the ability to shock the Saints here with some big plays and NO has given up TDs to the WR position in each of their last three games.
A lot of how this game plays out will depend on Kirk Cousins though, and whether he can hold up against a stout Saints D-Line. New Orleans comes in ranked 7th in sacks per game and have allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards per game this year. Cousins has been sacked 4.3 times per game over the Vikings last three games and will need better protection and a quick trigger here. He didn’t fare that well against Tampa Bay two weeks ago, who also has a strong offensive line, so if things come apart for Minnesota, it will likely be here. These are two strong units although Minnesota can certainly overcome the matchups on the ground and through the air here IF they can give Cousins time to throw. If not, the Saints may put this one away easily.
Game and prop bets
Bet: Vikings +7
The Saints are actually quite big public favorites this week with over 70% of the bets coming in on New Orleans, as of writing. We should see the line push to +7.0 or even higher and that’s where I like taking the other side (you can also always buy the half-point). Minnesota is far from a good team but their offense this year has been tough for opponents to pin down. The Vikings have scored 27 or more points now in four of their last five games and they sit fifth in total yards per game. The efficiency on that side of the ball has meant that, despite a mediocre record, the Vikes have been able to keep games close. Since their bye in Week 7, Minnesota sports a 5-3 straight-up record, and only one of their three losses have come by more than 6-points.
The Vikes are also, potentially, getting the Saints at a great time. New Orleans is without Michael Thomas (IR), has a rusty Drew Brees–who looked terrible for the first three quarters of the game last week against KC–and will also potentially be without WR Tre’Quan Smith as well. The Saints have also been a decent target over the last couple years when they’ve been heavy favorites as they’re just 9-14 ATS since 2018 as home favorites. The Vikes have also been solid bets in this spot for 2020 as they enter with a 4-2 ATS record as underdogs in 2020.
New Orleans defense has been exposed a little the last two weeks, allowing passing 4 TDs, a ton of rushing yards and zero 0 INTs. They now have to face off against one of the league’s most versatile backs, two elite WRs and to boot, New Orleans will also be without their best WRS to attack the weak part of the Vikes defense. A TD spread feels too big here and I prefer getting to +7 (or better) with Minnesota this week.
Justin Jefferson over 64.5 yards (-116)
Jefferson has certainly moved into consideration as one of the games best young receivers. He comes in averaging 16.2 yards per catch and is also averaging a very healthy 11-targets per game over the last four weeks. Minnesota’s defense continues to play poorly and is banged up so we should expect the Saints to move the ball with solid efficiency here–which only means more passing for Minnesota. His receiving total here looks too low considering the type of volume and big play ability he’s shown. Keep pounding his overs until his totals get up there with the more elite receivers every week.
Minnesota over 21.5 total points (-105)
I’ll keep with my theme that Minnesiota perhaps doesn’t win this game, but they do put up points. New Orleans defensive numbers have been inflated by some dominant performances against poor QBs (including a matchup with Kendal Hinton). Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Justin Herbert have all burned this defense for 3 or more TDs in the air though and even if Kirk Cousins just accomplishes half of what those elite QBs did against the Saints then we should be in good shape here, especially considering the Vikes also have Dalvin Cook. The Vikes have also only gone under this total twice in the entire year (once was way back in Week 2). Their offense is being disrespected by this number.
Check out our other NFL articles(coming soon)
- First-look betting preview from Geoff Ulrich
- Main slate betting preview from Matt LaMarca
- The DFS Big Three from James McCool
- Dieter’s Dive from Dieter Kurtenbach
- Christmas Day betting preview from Geoff Ulrich
- Saturday Football betting preview from Matt Dickason
- Sunday Night Football betting preview from Geoff Ulrich
- Line Movement Staff Picks from Matt Ramos