Vikings Offense vs Saints Defense
Despite their losing record, the Vikings have had a very productive offense this season. Overall, they rank 5th in yards/play, as well as 4th in passing yards/pass attempt.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins, as evidenced by those numbers, is having an incredibly efficient season. Helping matters is the receiver duo of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. The two have combined for around 2000 yards receiving, and neither has ever been limited in a game this season.
Jefferson is someone Saints fans are well aware of from his time at LSU.
Since earning a meaningful role in Week 3, the rookie receiver is averaging 92.66 receiving yards per game, and with 16.2 yards/reception, he has been the big-play threat the Vikings needed to replace when they traded away Stefon Diggs. He and Thielen complement each other well and will be awfully difficult to defend.
New Orleans has certainly been vulnerable to explosive passes at times, which makes the matchup against Jefferson quite frightening.
With Minnesota’s extensive usage of two tight-end sets, it’ll be strictly up to Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins to limit this prolific receiver duo, but if I were running the defense, I would not blitz much in this game; they’ll need all the coverage help they can get.
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Yet, the Vikings rank just 13th in points/play. Why the discrepancy between their points and yards? It stems from their overall gameplan.
They have the fifth-lowest pass-play rate, which is particularly impressive considering they have often been behind late in games. As a defensive-minded head coach, Mike Zimmer wants his team to establish the run, which holds back the passing attack.
Although they have struggled the past two weeks, the Saints still have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per attempt (3.8) this season. Thus, if Minnesota tries to run the ball often with running back Dalvin Cook in this game, that will play right into New Orleans’ strengths.
From there, that forces Cousins into obvious passing situations. He ranks 10th in sacked percentage this season, as the Vikings have had issues on their offensive line, particularly on the interior.
This would figure to be nice opportunity for the Saints’ defensive line, especially interior defender David Onyemata, to continue to generate a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback, which could limit Minnesota’s effectiveness on key late-down situations.
The Saints are going to have a tough time keeping up with the Vikings’ overall abundance of talent, but what could save them is Minnesota’s overall philosophy. They have shown no signs shifting away from a run-heavy mindset, so as long as that is the case, New Orleans has a shot to limit this prolific passing attack.