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Game Preview: Saints vs Vikings

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By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah
Ooctober 27th, 2018

“DIGGS, SIDELINE, TOUCHDOWN! UNBELIEVABLE! VIKINGS WIN IT!” The Minnesota Vikings are slated to take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night football this week. This is a high stakes game with major playoff implications come January. The last time these two teams played, the whole world knows what happened. This time, the Saints come with heavy hearts to avenge not only one, but two losses at the hands of Mike Zimmer’s Vikings.

We’ll take you through a couple of matchups and a couple of players that should really highlight what these two teams are about and who to watch for come Sunday night.

Matchups to Watch:

  1. Adam Thielen vs PJ Williams  

Adam Thielen has taken the NFL by a storm this season. What’s special about him is that no matter what he always manages to get open. He could be going against the best cornerback in the league and straight out burn him. He could be double covered, but run creative routes to get open. He’s probably the most consistent piece on the Vikings offense.

Thielen also happens to spend the majority of his time in the slot. Due to this, expect the star wide receiver to be up against Saints slot corner PJ Williams. New Orleans’ pass defense has been lacking this season, allowing an average of 294 yards per game (28th in the NFL). To top that off, Thielen probably won’t be shadowed a lot by their number one corner Marshon Lattimore--who is expected to be on the miracle man Stefon Diggs.

In a likely shootout, Thielen’s production will be key. Can the receiver get over 100 yards for the 8th straight game this year? Saints fans would disagree, but for 7 weeks, Thielen has proved fans and players wrong all around the league.

  1. Vikings Linebackers vs Alvin Kamara

The Vikings will be without starting Pro-Bowl linebacker and team captain Anthony Barr on Sunday. Barr appeared to in pain after an injury to his hamstring against the Jets late in the game. This might have been the worst week for him to miss as the Vikings take on probably the best 1-2  punch in Kamara and Ingram Love him or hate him (mostly hate him), Kamara is a premier back in the league. He can do it all, whether it be running the ball up the gut or lining up in the slot. He can, and is willing to do anything for his team.

So how the question is, how will the Vikings defend against this do it all back who in just his second year has already become the focal point of this elite offense?

It all starts with the big men up front. The Vikings are hopeful to have a fully healthy defensive line for the first time since Griffen’s incident. It would have been a huge morale boost to get back their captain and one of the longest tenured players on the team. Another potential boost could be Linval Joseph, coming back after sitting the week out vs the Jets.

All the pressure will not be on just the starters as impact players like veterans Tom Johnson and Jaleel Johnson who also come off of the bench along with defensive ends Stephen Weatherly and Tashawn Bower. If the Vikings front four can get to Kamara and even Ingram early and slow them down, it might not expose unheralded players like Ben Gedeon and Eric Wilson.

3. Michael Thomas vs The Vikings Secondary

If you’re a Vikings fan, you likely hate Michael Thomas. You have to respect what he does, but you don’t have to like him. I hate saying things like this, but Thomas did burn the secondary last January. He combined for a total of 7 receptions, 85 yards and 2 touchdowns.

This year, the Vikings may or may not be without Xavier Rhodes who is listed as
questionable with an ankle injury. Their cornerback depth is already low after losing Mike Hughes for the season. Minnesota will also not have starting safety Andrew Sendejo, but in his absence George Iloka has played well.

If Rhodes plays, he will likely be shadowing Thomas, but expect a little help from the safeties. Last week, everyone saw Rhodes and Harrison Smith’s chemistry with the tipped interception. If Rhodes doesn’t play, Trae Waynes will take over and cover Michael Thomas, and rookie Holton Hill, who recorded his first interception vs the Jets will rotate in the slot.

Players to Watch:

  1. Taysom Hill

Taysom Hill? Who is that? Every week, fans of teams opposing the Saints learn the hard way. Hill is a backup quarterback but he plays virtually every phase in football. He is a special teams God, but has seen some more playing time on offense this season. He can throw, he can catch, he can tackle, he can run, and he can block.

You can tell that Sean Payton is having fun adding more pages to his playbook due to Hill’s versatility. He had his first NFL touchdown in the blowout vs the Redskins and has thrown a couple of passes on offense.

Hill is a guy the Vikings must watch out for because you never know what he’s going to do or even when he’s going to be on the field. If anything happens to punter Thomas Morstead’s ribs this time, you know who is taking over.

  1. Jayron Kearse

Let be honest with ourselves. Many of us thought that after the signing of George Iloka, Jayron Kearse was going to be on the way out. Missing the first two preseason games definitely did not help his case. But in the final two games of the preseason, he showed enough to warrant his place on the team. In the first game, many people were surprised to see him get an extended run with the first team defense.

He has played like a man possessed in many of the games where he has seen the field. He has turned himself into a “Big Nickel” who can play in the slot vs tight ends and vs bigger wide receivers. If Rhodes is ruled out by the time you're reading this, expect to see Jayron Kearse getting even more snaps due to Mackensie Alexander likely moving outside to help the short staffed DB room.

Despite how much fun we had watching the Miracle and believe me it was the best moment in Vikings history, we need to put that aside. As Kyle Rudolph said today on an interview with FS1’s First Things First “That play and that game has nothing to do with the 2018 Minnesota Vikings playing the 2018 New Orleans Saints.”

Tanishka: Vikings 38- Saints 30
Preet: Vikings 31- Saints 28