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The game on paper: 10 stats that size up Vikings-Saints matchup

The Minnesota Vikings (13-3) and New Orleans Saints (11-5) are statistically two of the most impressive teams in the NFL. The Vikings rank 10th in scoring and first in points against, while the Saints are fourth in points scored and 10th in points allowed. But how do the two teams size up beyond the basic numbers? Let’s have a look at 10 stats that tell the story…

– The Vikings defense at home has allowed 5 touchdowns and a 73.2 rating against and ranks 3rd in sacks

Heading into Week 17, the Vikings were desperate to lock down the No. 2 seed in the NFC because of the huge advantage that comes along with playing at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings won seven of their eight home games this year with the only loss coming to Detroit in Week 4 – a game in which they sacked Matthew Stafford six times and held the Lions to seven points. Minnesota’s defense has more INTs than touchdowns at home this year and has outscored opponents by 131 points since US Bank Stadium opened.

Drew Brees averages 326 yards per game in the playoffs 

Drew Brees will turn 39 years old the day after the Vikings and Saints play their Divisional Round game, but he doesn’t look anywhere close to 40 from his recent performances. During the regular season, he led the NFL in yards per attempt (8.1) and in the Wild Card game against Carolina Brees threw for 376 yards. Over nearly a full season’s worth of playoff games, the future Hall of Famer has 26 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 101.6 rating.

The Vikings defense allows 30.6 passing yards per game to running backs

Look up and down the Vikings’ schedule and you will see all sorts of great duel-threat running backs. Whether it was the Saints’ tandem in Week 1 or Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey, Theo Riddick or Duke Johnson, the Vikings’ defensive speed and discipline won the day over quick passes out of the backfield. They allowed the fewest yards to opposing running backs in the passing game in the NFL. Carrying that over to the matchup with the Saints will be vital – though the Panthers allowed just two catches to running backs and Brees still went for nearly 400 yards.

Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 3,094 yards from scrimmage 

While the Vikings’ defense has dominated opposing running backs, they will draw the best tandem in the NFL in the Divisional round. The last time these two teams played, Adrian Peterson earned the first carry of the game. Oh, how different things will be this time. Ingram has consistently been one of the NFL’s best running backs, averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the past three seasons and adding an average of 51 catches per year. His ability to catch insures that the Vikings have to be prepared for anything when either he or Kamara is in the game. The rookie out of Tennessee quickly became one of the most exciting players in the league. He had 81 catches and averaged 6.1 yards per carry.

Drew Brees has a 69.8% completion percentage when throwing to Michael Thomas

Because Brees is the big ticket, Thomas’s rise to superstardom has been overlooked. But he has ranked in the top five by Pro Football Focus in each of his first two seasons. This year, he scored only behind Antonio Brown.

Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes allowed just 6.4 yards per attempt into his coverage (84 targets)

There’s no doubt Xavier Rhodes will be matching up against Thomas again. In Round 1, Thomas caught five passes for 45 yards. He made the long list of elite receivers that Rhodes shut down this season. Allowing 6.4 yards per attempt against while facing Antonio Brown, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Julio Jones and AJ Green is remarkable. Rhodes solidified himself as one of the top shutdown corners in the NFL this year.

Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs combined for 2,125 yards on 155 catches

There is no good way to stop both Thielen and Diggs. When teams play deep safeties, they run underneath and create yards after catch. When teams play up at the line of scrimmage, they beat opponents down the field. Not only are they both terrific route runners with exceptional hands, but Thielen and Diggs are versatile enough to play outside or slot, which means creating challenging matchups for corners or mismatches. Diggs ranked ninth and Thielen 10th by PFF ratings.

Football Outsiders ranks New Orleans’ pass defense 5th, right behind Minnesota

The Saints have made an incredible turnaround on defense, from historically bad over the past few seasons to ranking high against the pass. Football Outsiders adapts yards against by opponent and found the Saints to have a very good pass defense. At the center of that is rookie corner Marshon Lattimore, who was ranked by PFF as the fourth best corner in the NFL. Safety Marcus Williams has also been a game-changer for the Saints.

Football Outsiders ranks the Vikings 6th in Adjusted Sack Rate 

The combination of a vastly improved offensive line and Case Keenum’s escapability has resulted in the Vikings’ quarterback being one of the hardest to sack in the NFL. His success was partly driven by the ability to find receivers while on the move. According to NFL Next Gen stats, Keenum was seventh in the league in time between snap and throw.

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan ranked No. 1 by Pro Football Focus

Keenum’s time to throw may be cut down by the Saints since they sport one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers in Cameron Jordan. He finished the season with 13.0 sacks and caused havoc for Cam Newton in the Wild Card game. Jordan got one sack against the Vikings in their first matchup. Shuffling along the offensive line could make him especially difficult as he lines up on both sides.

  • girthdiggler

    Saints all the way! Two Dat!

    • SM

      You be lost sonny. Go back to your parents’ basement, cajun wannabe.

      • girthdiggler

        Die hard red blooded conservative here, and plus there are NO basements in SE Louisiana!
        It would flood!

        • SM

          Basement, double wide crawl space, don’t matter which. We don’t talk politics here pal.

          Skedaddle on now, ya’ll.

          • girthdiggler

            you’re the one who brought up basement (which is a insinuation of a snowflake liberal), asshole.

          • SM

            Kiss off sh** for brains, get your mouth off the toilet. You know nothing. Can’t win a point and start the verbal abuse.

            Bountygate suits you just fine don’t it, cheating punk. You and that slime ball coach.

          • girthdiggler

            Watch and weep asshole! LOL


            It will be a playoff SWEEP just like we SWEPT Scam Newton and the Cancers.

          • SM

            Yea I saw the cheap hits punk.

          • SM

            Who dat? Lame cheating beyotches! Who your daddy crybaby??

          • girthdiggler

            Better team definitely lost. You guys got freakin LUCKY and you know it!!! We were kicking your teams ASS all over the field 2nd half in your own house with your rested team and with your own rigged ref’s even with like 20 people on IR that we have! If it weren’t for the LUCKY ass hail Mary you guys would be sitting here 1 N done with your tail between your legs. Well, at least we have a young team and HOF QB that will be back next year so look the F out, we are going all the way!!!

          • SM

            Whine, whine crybaby crooks from.2009!

            It’s major funny to hear cheats talk about rigged refs.

            You slimeballs got away with helmet hit on the strong safety that knocked him out of the game and then brag you beat the defense?

            Yea, the Better QB lost.

            Better team won.
            Better receivers group won.
            Better D won.
            Better record won.
            Better team PA won.
            More picks won.

            Go back to your stinkhoke city for nine months and try again.

            Until then, remember your great team gave up the biggest choke walkoff play in NFL history. Forever stain.

            Who dat? Cupcake choke Aints!

          • girthdiggler


            We will definitely be back with a vengeance next year!

            Hey, I’m going to attempt to leave it on a high note.

            Good luck hosting your own super bowl.

          • SM

            Thanks, champs of frozen north are best to go to icy septic tank Philly to play. You can have Dallas when they make a return.

            Maybe this is the start of a north south rivalry? Vikes vs Aints. Kewl!

        • Drediock

          All the more reason for you to go down there

  • Drediock

    Hey Shill Coller.
    You say “Keenum’s time to throw may be cut down by the Saints since they sport
    one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers in Cameron Jordan. He finished the
    season with 13.0 sacks”
    And just how many sacks did Everson Griffen have this year again?
    I’d say Brees is going to be facing at best from his standpoint. An elite pass rusher. On an ELITE defense
    Lessee, Saints defense ranked 15th against the pass and 16th against the rush
    THATS what Keenum is facing.
    Vs what Brees is facing Vikings ranked 2nd against the pass and 2nd against the rush
    #2 defense Vs #15. And all you can do is mention what kind of elite pass rusher Keenum is going to have problems with?

    Go back to Buffalo

    • Keith Turing

      an “elite” defense that picked its stats up against teams with an average of 7.8 wins. an “elite” defense that couldnt stop cam newton, a mediocre passer, without his only strong receiver, olsen, out on injury. The defense will face the best QB in NFL history, with the best offensive line in the NFL. They will also face the best best dual threat running back duo in the NFL. Youre either going to cover the rush game and do like the panthers did, or you are going to run a balanced offense and get shredded. Keenum, a medicore QB is facing an above average defense with a below average offensive line in front of him and a defense with 20 interceptions and 42 sacks. hold your breath if you think his screen passes are going to be as effective against anyone else.

      • SM

        Case well presented. Should be the championship matchup.

        Yet, in spite of all those impressive stats, and home field advantage, the Panthers were one play from beating your bada$$ slime ball coached aints.

        You pick the play, the 80 yard early TD or the late missed TD pass.

        Doesn’t sound like the juggernaut you described.

        As for best all time QB, you are drinking too much bayou bootleg buddy.

        Montana, Bradshaw and Brady have more rings. Manning and Elway have stats and more championship appearances.

        Keep dreaming and kissing your dog, you might become a reality star. HOT BAYOU NIGHTS LoL

      • Drediock

        Its nobodies fault that the rest of the teams in their division didnt do better. But outside their division Vikings had one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. And you sir are talking out of your ass
        Vikings Vs Panthers
        Vikings 21 first downs to the Panthers 15
        Vikes 14 Passing first downs. Panthers 7
        Keenum Passing yards 256 Newton 129

        But lets look at some better teams shall we? How about the Rams? They’ve only had the top scoring offense all year
        Vikings. 27 first downs. Rams 15
        Vikes Passing first downs 15 Rams 12
        Vikes Total Yards 451 Rams 254
        And even the stats most of thee teams have dont tell the whole story as much of the opponents yards were gained during junk time
        Now i am intentionally leaving out NO’s stats because admittedly they are not the same team the Vikes played week 1

        The only passers this defense has had some issue with are mobile QBs that run
        Last time I checked Brees wasnt exactly the second comming of Kordell Stewart. And Besides the Vikes in week 1 The the highest ranked defense the Saints faced all year was 7th

        Through a 16 game season NO has played 9 games against teams that ended the season with a winning record. The Vikings had only 1 less at 8
        All 3 of the Vikings losses were against teams with a winning record. And one of those losses came with a last second QB switch
        The Saints managed to lose against the lowly Bucs
        They also lost to the Rams below average defense (who’s passing defense is only middle of the pack at 16th) whom the Vikings beat

        And as for Cam. All of his real damage was done on 1 Run.

      • RSR1DRIVER

        Funny, no team defense since 1991 has held opponents to 25.1% on 3rd down like the Vikings defense. And that is playing a Potent Ram, Lions and Falcons offenses to just name a few.

      • SM

        It was an excellent game sir. Best luck, great bunch of young players you got.

        Case messed up, it should not have been that close.

        Better team did win, even though you got the HOF QB.

        Notice two other top QBs lost this weekend too.

  • SM

    Appears to be even matchup. Three point home field advantage. FG (58 yarder!) and QB edge to cheaters. Will come down to turnovers, special teams and who gives up the big play. Carolina lost the game on one early big play.

  • Alex Picchietti

    dude, were you drunk when you wrote this? There are like 35 errors. “passing yards per game to running backs”? You mean, Running Back Receiving Yards? “held the Lions to seven points.” The Lions scored 14.

    • SM

      He may have meant held to one TD (plus two FGs).

  • Frank Chappel

    We were on prime time TV almost every week because our opponents were expected to win. We still have a 13 win season and we’re home. They still want to pick the other guy. They will never learn. Even when we win the Super bowl they will make excuses. “Defense wins Championships”. How many times have we watched the offence take a knee this year? We have more bullets to fire!


    I throw stats out the window in big games. Line opened at vikes -3.5, went to -4 yesterday and has jumped to vikes – 5 1/2 today.

    That’s not pocket change moving those lines in Vegas.


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