NFL

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW Sun: Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints

The NFL makes a welcome return to London with the Saints hosting the Vikings at the dual-purpose Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that next week will see the Green Bay Packers become the hosts and the 32nd and final NFL team to play a regular season game on British soil.

The Vikings come into the game as slight favourites (-1.5) and it should be noted that favourites are 18-12 against the spread in London games with the overs and unders (set at 43.5 here) seeing an even 15-15 split.

This pair last played each other in a wild Christmas Day game in 2020 with the Saints (again the home team) winning a turbulent contest 52-33, I would be surprised if we got a game that was that expansive and high scoring this time around though. Having said that it is on the offensive side of the ball that the Vikings strength lies with new head coach Kevin O’Connell playing with a more open and less restrictive offence than previous head coach Mike Zimmer.

It will be interesting to see how the offence sets up for Minnesota as they do have a positive run game although the Saints are not an easy team to run on having restricted enemy running back to a combined 80/328/1 (4.1 yards per carry) statistics line so far this season. The main focus of the Vikings running attack usually comes via Dalvin Cook but he dislocated his shoulder in Week 3 but he has practised in full towards the end of this week and looks ready to go. If Cook is restricted Minnesota have a more than adequate replacement in Alexander Maddison.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins faces a Saints defence that enters this game having allowed the NFL’s ninth-fewest yards per pass attempt (6.0) and a league-low two passing touchdowns. So while Cousins has plenty of freedom within the offensive framework it won’t be easy through the air against such a preventive defence. The Saints pass defence have already managed to keep in check some notable wide receivers and the main aerial threat in the Vikings arsenal Justin Jefferson if he continues to run the majority of his routes inside will encounter the feisty CB Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore uses the same kind of close-in, physical approach that Eagles CB Darius Slay and Lions CB Jeff Okudah have utilized to slow down Jefferson in the past two weeks. In those weeks Jefferson has recorded just 48 and 14 yards receiving respectively after his monster receiving yards harvest in Week 1 when he clocked up 184 yards on the confused Packers secondary.

Cousins has other options in Adam Thielen but he’s only topped 65 yards receiving in three of his last 15 games and K.J Osborn is averaging just 36 yards over his last 15 appearances. It’s also worth noting that the Saints defence tends to match up well against the tight end position also and only San Francisco have yielded fewer yards to that position that the Saints.

Whilst the Vikings offence has improved for all they have a tough matchup here the same can’t be said of their defence with any improvements only minimal. The Vikings have allowed 1,240 yards this season, the third most in the NFL, and at least 300 scrimmage yards in 11 consecutive games. Here they will meet a Saints offence that is dealing with injuries with QB Jameis Winston a doubtful starter with back injuries and it looks likely that veteran Andy Dalton will be stepping in. If that’s the case Dalton will be operating behind an offensive line that has lost the starting left tackle (Trevor Penning) and starting left guard Andrus Peat to injury.

All of that could well mean that Dalton, if he is to play instead of Winston will be using running back Alvin Kamara more in the passing game especially on plays where he is forced to check down. Kamara himself is questionable for the game (he’s had a rib injury) but should be fit to play and if he is it’s worth noting that the Vikings have surrendered the NFL’s sixth-most running back catches (19).

The Vikings have also shown vulnerability in the run game so the Saints will be hoping to have Kamara at full speed.

The depth of the Saints receiving corps will also be tested with Michael Thomas out with a foot injury and Jarvis Landry dealing with an injury and not certain to start. That leaves rookie Chris Olave who was just named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month as the main target against the slow and ageing Vikings cornerback duo of Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler. If Landry does play the I’d expect him to be the slot receiver with Olave and Tre’Quan Smith to be the wide pairing. Olave is a particularly exciting young player and I expect him to have a big game if Dalton can find him downfield.

The game itself sets up as a tight contest with neither side having really impressed this season so far despite flashing some competent play on occasions. Rather than the offences deciding this game I think it will be the defences who hold the whip hand and the one that plays best will come out on top. The defence that holds the most scope is definitely the Saints it’s just a question of whether their offence can put enough points on the board to make their efforts count.

ANDY RICHMOND


ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


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