The first week of the preseason continues on Friday night as the Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1 last season) travel to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints (13-3 last season). Kickoff for this one is scheduled for 8 pm ET.
For the Vikings, they had a disappointing season in 2018, finishing second in the NFC North but failing to make the playoffs. They will look to bounce back this season. For the Saints, they are still trying to get over a loss in the NFC Championship Game that was littered in controversy. Still, the Saints will look to take in out on the league this season in an effort to return to the Super Bowl.
The Vikings found out that they have significant competition in the NFC North as the rising Chicago Bears took the division last year and Aaron Rodgers still looms with the Packers. Despite that, the Vikings have the talent on both sides of the ball to make a run at the division and will look to get back to the playoffs behind players like Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs.
Drew Brees returns for his 19th season, and the future Hall-of-Famer will look to dominate the league again. The offensive line takes a hit with the loss of Max Unger, but Sean Payton and company seem to have a squad that will once again compete for the NFC South.
The point spread for this one comes in with the New Orleans Saints being 2.5-point favorites playing at home. The over/under on total points scored is set at 37.5 points.
By The Numbers
On the offensive side, the New Orleans Saints held a considerable advantage over the Vikings. The Saints ranked third in the league, averaging 31.5 points per game. For the Vikings, they came in 19th, averaging 22.5 points per game. On the defensive side, it was the Vikings that held a slight edge. They ranked ninth in the league, allowing 21.3 points per game while the Saints came in 14th, allowing 22.1 points per game.
Vikings Look For More Out Of Cousins
Offensively, the Minnesota Vikings will look for Kirk Cousins to be that quarterback that can get them over the hump. Last season, Cousins played admirably, going 425 for 606 for 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. His best target last season was wide receiver Adam Thielen. On the season, Thielen had 113 receptions for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns.
Between Thielen and Stefon Diggs, it is quite a 1-2 punch for the Vikings. They do need to find out who their third wide receiver is and will ultimately need to get more out of their run game, but that is part of what can be looked at in the preseason.
On the defensive side, Danielle Hunter had a fantastic season. He led the team with a whopping 14.5 sacks and had 72 tackles. The leading tackler was Eric Kendricks with 108 stops. He also had two interceptions, although it was Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith that led the team with three apiece.
Saints Have Big Expectations Once Again
Just like many of the elite quarterbacks, Drew Brees gives the Saints a chance to win every time he is under center. Last season, Brees went 364 for 489 for 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. His No. 1 wide receiver is Michael Thomas. Having just signed a massive extension, Thomas will look to build off of his solid season last year, in which he had 125 receptions for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns.
The @Saints are making Michael Thomas the highest-paid WR ever.
Thomas has caught more passes in his first 3 seasons (321) than any other player in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/4vdlquAisY
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 31, 2019
In the run game, Alvin Kamara led the way with 194 rushes for 883 yards and 14 touchdowns while also adding 81 receptions for 709 yards and four scores. The trio will look to dominate the league again this year.
On the defensive side, Cameron Jordan led the way for the team with 12 sacks while also adding 49 tackles. Demario Davis led the way with 110 tackles while also adding five sacks. It will be interesting to see how the draft additions of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Saquan Hampton help the secondary. Regardless, the Saints will be a tough team to beat this year.
Saints Win And Cover
As always, preseason week one games can be hard to predict. The starters, if they play at all, will play minimally, and it is more about seeing the depth pieces as opposed to the high-end pieces. Still, when it comes to depth, I like what the Saints have to offer.
One interesting position to watch for the Saints will be the center position as they move on from the retirement of Max Unger. If likely center Erik McCoy can handle the duties, the Saints should be in good shape. It could be anyone’s bet on this one, but at just -2.5 points, I will take the Saints in this one.