Minnesota (6-8) at New Orleans (10-4)
When: Friday, December 25th, 2020
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome,
New Orleans, LA
Time: 4:30 ET | TV: FOX
Opening Odds: New Orleans -6.5/51.5
The Thursday night NFL games are done for the season, but we do have a Friday afternoon tilt featuring the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. What that means is that for the first time in NFL history there has been at least one game in season on every single day of the week. The NFL opted to leave Christmas Eve night empty but put a game on Christmas Day opposite what is the NBA’s biggest day of its regular season. The Saints are looking to get back on track after dropping their last two contests, while the Vikings still have a glimmer of hope to make the postseason. Minnesota needs to win their final two games and get a lot of help, so this might be it for them. The Vikings have also dropped two straight and have failed to cover their last five after a 33-27 home loss to the Chicago Bears. Minnesota’s injury-plagued defense had nine players on the injury report Tuesday, including star linebacker Eric Kendricks, who has missed the last three games because of a calf injury. New Orleans has lost back-to-back games for the first time since the first two games of the 2017 season, which also included a 29-19 loss to the Vikings. They have failed two weeks in a row to clinch the NFC South title, droppings from the No. 1 seed to the No. 2 seed in the NFC behind Green Bay. New Orleans can pass Green Bay with some help and needs just one win or one Tampa Bay loss to clinch its fourth consecutive division title. Quarterback Drew Brees returned last week and showed plenty of rust as the Saints came up short with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs 32-29.
It was 51 weeks ago that the Vikings went into the Superdome and upset the Saints 26-20 in a wild-card game. Minnesota and New Orleans have split the past 10 games overall, including playoffs, with the Vikings covering in six of those 10. The Vikings have handed the Saints two of the most gut-wrenching postseason losses in the past few years. Last January in a Wild-Card Round game in New Orleans, Kirk Cousins hit Kyle Rudolph on a four-yard TD pass early in overtime for a 26-20 win. In the Divisional Round following the 2017 season, the Vikings beat the visiting Saints 29-24 on the “Minneapolis Miracle” – a 61-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs with no time remaining. The Saints are 7-point home favorites in this one with a total set at 51.
Minnesota’s offense was great last week, recordings 407 yards and 26 first downs, but the defense allowed a terrible Chicago offense to score 33. Rookie wideout Justin Jefferson had eight catches for 104 yards and now has 73 for 1,182 yards and seven scores on the season. Dalvin Cook had 132 yards and a TD on 24 carries versus the Bears and remains second in the league with 1,484 yards rushing. The Vikings are fifth in the NFL with 387.1 total yards per game and fifth as well in rushing attack with 147.7 rushing yards per contest. The hope for the Vikings’ defense is that Kendricks is finally going to get back on the field after missing the last three games due to a calf injury. The Vikings allowed the Bears’ David Montgomery to rush for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns last week and the unit ranks near the bottom in almost every defensive category. Minnesota will close the season at Detroit next week.
Brees completed just 15-of-34 last week versus Kansas City with an interception, but did throw three touchdowns. Star wideout Michael Thomas, the 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, missed the game with an ankle injury and is done for the rest of the regular season. That means Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, and Alvin Kamara will all have to step up in the passing attack. Even without Thomas, the Saints can still have success this week against a Minnesota squad that ranks 24th against the pass. The New Orleans defense is still the strong part of the team, ranking third overall (306.4), fifth against the pass (210.9) and fourth versus the run (95.6). They have also held three opponents this season to under 10 points including the Bucs and Falcons. The Saints, who are 2-0-1 ATS in their last three home games, will finish the season next week at Carolina.
I normally like to take the points in a contest like this, but Minnesota’s defense is really bad. If Chicago can score 33 on them, then New Orleans shouldn’t have any problems. I expect Brees to be better this week and the Saints should roll.
Pick: Saints -7
Week 16 Staff Selections