The Minnesota Vikings return to the playoffs on Sunday afternoon, as they take on the New Orleans Saints.
Both teams played each other in Week 1 of the season, with the Vikings winning by two possessions. Since then though, both teams have changed drastically.
For the Vikings, one asset they did have in Week 1 that they won’t have on Sunday is rookie Dalvin Cook. Cook suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions, but was making a name for himself right away for Minnesota.
With that, here are my keys to victory for the Minnesota Vikings over the New Orleans Saints.
Control the clock
One thing that the Vikings will need to do on Sunday is controlling the time of possession.
In Week 1, the Vikings won the time of possession battle, which ultimately led to them winning the game.
Minnesota controlled the football for 31 minutes, 16 seconds; while New Orleans had the ball for 28 minutes, 44 seconds. In the NFL, every second is crucial.
Great quarterbacks are outstanding with clock management, and the Saints have one leading them.
The last thing the Vikings want is Drew Brees controlling the clock in a tight game.
Limit the run
New Orleans has a pair of running backs that are both lethal. Kamara and veteran Mark Ingram are the horses on the offensive side of the ball.
Kamara is the big burst and dynamic player that Peterson was not, while Ingram is the running back that is always available in clutch situations.
This season, Ingram leads the team in rushing touchdowns — he has 12. Kamara has eight scores, but averages more yards per rush, and can be used as a receiver option as well.
Minnesota did a great job of this in Week 1, but are dealing with a team that is eager for revenge and has the personnel to do so.
Look for Everson Griffin to have a big day, just as he did in the teams’ previous meeting.
Impact from the receivers
Minnesota will need a big day out of their receiving core on Sunday.
Equaling that will be hard to do, but a pair of 90-yard performances from both would not hurt.
The one matchup I like though is at tight end. Kyle Rudolph has been outstanding for Minnesota this season, with eight touchdowns — five of which have come in the last six games.
Rudolph had a scare late in the season with a reported ankle injury, but the week off between games should have cured that.
Rudolph caught a touchdown pass in the Week 1 matchup, with limited usage since he suffered the injury in Week 14 against the Carolina Panthers. He has been targeted just six times since the injury, catching only one touchdown pass during that time.
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