Vikings defense will be a good first test for 2017 Saints offense

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 13: Center Max Unger
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 13: Center Max Unger /

The Saints offense looks to pick up where they left off as the NFL’s best unit. However, an elite Vikings defense should prove to be a daunting first test.

Last season the Saints ranked 1st in the NFL in total offense. After a few changes this offseason, the Saints offense looks to continue their success against the Vikings in Week 1. The Vikings defense finished 3rd overall in team defenses. They didn’t lose very much this offseason either. Besides Captain Munnerlyn and Chad Greenway, the Vikings have the same core unit. Come Monday night, Xavier Rhodes and company will match-up well against the Black and Gold. With the Patriots knocking on the door for Week 2, a test from an elite defense like the Vikings is exactly what the Saints offense needs.

Here are the matchups we’ll be focusing on:

Michael Thomas vs. Xavier Rhodes

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Michael Thomas’ rise to NFL stardom is on track to continue this year. As a rookie, he posted 1000+ receiving yards. He was ranked the top rookie wide receiver by CBS Sports. After setting the stage as an elite talent, Thomas now looks to become one of the best this season. Not to mention with Brandin Cooks leaving town, he certainly has the opportunity to. However, the young stud is going to be met with a tough task of going up against a 2016 pro-bowler on Monday.

Last year, Xavier Rhodes shut down top tier receivers on prime-time television. Rhodes made a strong case for best cornerback in the league. ranked him as the top cornerback in the NFL for this past season. With both players entering into elite categories, it will create a fun matchup come kickoff. Look for this contest to strongly influence the outcome of this game.

Drew Brees vs. Harrison Smith

Another 2016 Pro-Bowler on the Vikings roster, Harrison Smith, will be going head-to-head with one of the greatest all time, Drew Brees. Brees posted yet another 5,000-yard season and finished with the most passing yards in the NFL. Entering his contract season, Brees looks to prove that he can still play at an elite level. However, the task of proving his worth won’t start off easy. Harrison Smith is an elite pass rusher who can also hold elite receivers in check. Definitely safe to say Brees will have his hands full with this elite defense.

Saints offensive line vs. Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter, and Everson Griffen

After trading Brandin Cooks for the 32nd pick the Saints utilized that pick to bring in Ryan Ramczyk, the offensive tackle out of Wisconsin. With Terron Armstead out for the preseason and likely this game, Ramczyk proved to be a valuable pick. They also added Larry Warford from the Lions. The Saints now look to line up with Ramczyk, Peat, Unger, Warford and Strief against the Vikings. The O-line will have to learn fast as there will be no time for mistakes with this defense. Last year Joseph (yet another 2016 pro-bowler), Hunter and Griffen led the Vikings to a top 5 ranking in sacks. This will be tough for the Saints, but if Brees can get the ball off quick they should be okay.

Saints running back committee vs. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr

This season the Saints backfield shows real promise in its versatility. The committee includes Mark Ingram who is coming off season high numbers in 2016. Also, Adrian Peterson who says he is feeling better than ever, and excited to face his old squad. Finally, Alvin Kamara who showed real promise in the preseason. This backfield can create real havoc for the defense, but they will be met with a very solid linebacking crew. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks played a major part in Minnesota’s defensive success last year. They will be vital in stopping this three headed monster from making huge plays.

Keys to success

The Saints will certainly have their hands full with one of the league’s toughest defenses on Monday. The Vikings will be a great test for the offense in preparation for what is to come throughout the year. Offensively, the Saints will need Michael Thomas to be in premier form to stretch the field, and their offensive line to protect Brees. If they do that, they will put themselves in the best position to win the game. No matter the outcome, it will be a real treat to watch a top 5 offense go against a top 5 defense on the season debut of ESPN’s Monday Night Football.