NFL Spread: Saints at Vikings 2018 NFL Playoffs Odds
The line: Minnesota -4.5 (O/U: 46)
Let’s call this what it is: the best playoff matchup of 2017 to date. The Vikings topped the Saints on September 11, but this matchup could bear little resemblance to that one. That was Week 1 of the NFL season and New Orleans, in particular, hadn’t yet developed its current identity – a sentiment shared by several of the Saints key players in recent media reports.
To be fair, Minnesota has evolved too, but the Saints have improved markedly on defense as the season has progressed. That’s good for Saints fans because their team will need to demonstrate all of that improvement on the field in order advance in the playoffs against a Minnesota team that has been dominant at times this season.
By the numbers
This game has the shape and appearance of a strength vs. strength matchup with Minnesota’s stout defense countering New Orleans’ potent offense. How good are both these units? Which stats are relevant? Here’s a closer look:
- Minn ranks first in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense
- NO ranks second in total offense and 5th in both passing and rushing offense
- Minn is equally adept against the run and pass, ranking second among all defenses in stopping both
- Minn ranks 11th in total offense
- NO ranks 17th in total defense
The old cliche about good defense beating good offense in the postseason will be tested to the core in this game. Minnesota’s ability to shut down the running and passing game can’t be overstated. To boot, the Vikings will have their home crowd behind them in a building where they’ve gone 7-1. For good measure, this will be the first playoff game in the history of U.S. Bank Stadium – the Vikings home since 2016.
QB Drew Brees and company can put up yards and points on almost anyone, but they will have their work cut out for them in this contest. The true complexion of this game may lie in how the Vikings offense performs against the Saints defense. Minnesota featured the NFL’s 7th best rushing offense and 11th best passing offense. New Orleans counters with the league’s 16th best rushing defense and 15th best passing defense.
I give Minnesota the edge in this game for a few fundamental reasons. For starters, I simply believe Minnesota is the better team and the regular season stats, records and lone head-to-head matchup support that. The problem is, I’m not ready to lay 4.5 points with any degree of confidence. Let’s say I take the Vikings and give the points and happen to be up 11 late in the game. I’d hate to get backdoored in that scenario and I think this game will be much more nip and tuck than that anyway.
All factors considered, I love the way both defenses are playing. 46 is a prodigious total given the strength of the Vikings defensive unit and the improvement of the Saints on that side of the ball. Field position will play a prominent role in this contest, and I see a final score somewhere in the neighborhood of 24-17 in favor of Minnesota.
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