Saints +3 @ Vikings, O/U 48
Both teams come into Monday night off disappointing 2016 campaigns that resulted in missing out on the playoffs after a year of high expectations. The Saints went 7-9 and were on the wrong side of some close games, losing 4 games by 3 points or less. The Vikings struggled all season without Adrian Peterson and having to work with an offensive line that couldn’t protect Sam Bradford.
The Vikings made a lot of changes on the offensive line this offseason and will be starting 5 new offensive lineman for tonight’s game. The group should improve from last season but it remains to be seen how they will pan out early in the season. The Saints had the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL last season and are looking to change that with a strong front 7 led by Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, and Manti Te’O. They also made upgrades at cornerback by adding CB Marcus Lattimore to play on the opposite side of promising 2nd year player PJ Williams. The Saints should improve on defense this season but, like the Vikings offensive line, have a lot of questions to answer.
Adrian Peterson will play against his former team and that should be fun to watch. The Saints are as deep as ever at runningback with AP, Mark Ingram, and Alvin Kamara in the backfield. Willie Snead is OUT for this game after being suspend for a DUI arrest so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Saints run the ball more often than usual. The receiving core is spearheaded by Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., and Coby Fleener and they will face a tough task vs a Minnesota defense that has talent all over the field. Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter (“Danielle” is not a typo) and Linval Joseph will be a big test the Saints offensive line, especially with noise the crowd will bring in primetime. The Saints need rookie 1st rounder Ryan Ramcyzk to play well tonight after they traded Brandin Cooks to get him as the #32 pick overall.
The Vikings don’t have an explosive offense and want to lean heavily on rookie RB Dalvin Cook. The Saints would be wise to focus on limiting Cook’s 1st and 2nd down runs to force Sam Bradford into 3rd and long situations. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielan will be involved in competitive matchups with the Saints corners but each can break free for a long play vs. the Saints young CBs so the Saints need to pressure Bradford when the Vikings are in these long passing situations.
The Vikings are 18-7 ATS at home in the 3 years under Mike Zimmer while the Saints went 7-1 ATS in 2016 as underdogs.
Bottom line: If the Saints offensive line struggles and doesn’t create running lanes for AP and Ingram this will be a long night for the Saints without Willie Snead – the last thing you want to do on the road in front of a loud crowd is have your offense stuck in 3rd and longs all night and have your QB pressured…even if that QB is Drew Brees. If the Saints can rush for more than 110-120 yards tonight they’ll be in good position for the cover. If not it will be difficult for Brees to beat this defense and the Vikings offense will be on the field often wearing down the Saints defense. The Vikings ranked 3rd in pass defense last season but 19th in rush defense so the Saints should attack the Vikings in the run game and try to keep the Vikings defense on the field for as long as they can.
Lean: Under 48