Justin Jefferson and other Vikings who can ruin Week 4 for Saints

Minnesota Vikings, Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings, Justin Jefferson / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

The New Orleans Saints will take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4 and are desperately hoping to turn their season around.

Coming off a depressing loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Saints need a morale booster, and they need it fast. Jameis Winston got a much-needed rest on Wednesday and will look to get the Saints on the board early instead of waiting until the fourth quarter.

Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry are nursing injuries and are questionable to play, but NOLA has solid backups in Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty, not to mention Chris Olave is turning into an absolute stud.

Through three weeks of the season, New Orleans' defense has stayed elite and should be able to contain the Vikings' top threats.

Here are four Vikings who can nonetheless ruin the Saints' time in England.

Justin Jefferson

This Vikings wideout needs no introduction. Justin Jefferson has recorded over 3,000 receiving yards in his first two seasons in the league and poses as Minnesota's most formidable threat.

Jefferson has been in a slump lately, most recently being held to three catches for 14 yards by Detroit Lions' Jeff Okudah. Yet his middling production in Week 3 was partly due to opposing defenses sending two and sometimes three guys to cover him, as seen in the clip below.

Jefferson is just that good. The Saints will likely stick their best corner, Marshon Lattimore, on Jefferson and may consider a few double-team packages as well.

The 2020 first-rounder just needs quarterback Kirk Cousins to be on top of his game -- once those two start clicking, it could be game over for New Orleans.

Harrison Smith

Star safety Harrison Smith suffered a concussion in Week 2, but he's since cleared protocols and the "expectation is that [he] will be able to go in London," per head coach Kevin O'Connell.

Smith is entering his 11th year in Minnesota and has accumulated six Pro Bowls and one All-Pro honor in his NFL career; he's also recorded an interception in every single season except for 2016.

The fact that Smith may play in Week 4 is bad news for one man in particular: Jameis Winston. The turnover-prone quarterback has thrown five picks in the last two games, and having a ballhawking safety like Smith in the backfield should make Winston a bit nervous.

Smith already has his first pick of 2022 along with 20 combined tackles and one pass defended in two games, and he could make life extremely difficult for the Saints' wide receivers.

If Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry miss time, we don't like the chances of Olave going up against an established veteran like Smith.

Dalvin Cook

The main caveat to Dalvin Cook is he has to be healthy for this game. Cook injured his shoulder late in Week 3's win against Detroit and was declared out for the rest of the game.

The top running back is currently considered day-to-day, and if he isn't ready to go, Alexander Mattison poses as an equally dangerous ball-carrier, too.

Cook recorded 17 carries for 96 rushing yards and a touchdown, eclipsing 5,000 career rushing yards last Sunday. He's to the Vikings what Alvin Kamara is to the Saints, and he's arguably been outperforming Kamara with twice as many rushing yards so far this season.

Coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, Cook has long dominated the rushing attack in Minnesota and will put NOLA's interior defense to the test in Week 4.

And like we said, even if Cook sits this one out, Mattison has developed a reputation as a very effective plug-in. The Saints' run D has to be tough.

Kirk Cousins

We included Kirk Cousins on this list because, well, why not. Cousins definitely isn't the most dangerous opponent the Saints will face this year, and he may go down in league history as simply a decent quarterback.

He can throw well, but not that well (he has a middling 62.2 percent completion rate in 2022). He can win games, but not that many games (he owns a 35-30-1 record in Minnesota). He can record double-digit touchdowns and 4,000-plus passing yards in a season, but we don't see any fans getting excited, like actually excited about his talent.

Let's just say if he's your fantasy quarterback in 2022, you didn't pick him because you wanted to. You picked him because he's the best of the middle of the pack and he might be able to win the game depending on the other team.

That's Kirk Cousins. He could wreak havoc against the Saints in Week 4, or he could not make much of a difference.

In any case, the Saints have to prepare for the best version of Cousins, which possesses enough talent and poise to overcome two-score deficits and hammer out a win.

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If it sounds like we're dragging Cousins, we're not, and we know he's a better quarterback than Jameis Winston at this stage. But we're not all that threatened by him either -- it's just hard to explain.