The NFL Divisional Championship round concludes with the high-octane New Orleans Saints visiting the purple people eating Minnesota Vikings. Kick-off is on Sunday, January 14, 2018 at 4:40 PM ET live on FOX.
The Saints lost their regular season opener against the Vikings and now, they’ll take on their conference rivals with something much bigger at stake. Now let’s find out if it is the Saints or Vikings have what it takes to be my expert betting pick in this tilt.
What: NFC Divisional Championship
Who: New Orleans Saints (12-5) at Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
When: Sunday, January 14, 2018 at 4:40 PM ET
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Stream: Fox Sports Go
NFL Line: Vikings -3.5
New Orleans beat Carolina for the third time this season in their 31-26 wild-card win over the Panthers on Sunday as Brees passed for 376 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while rookie Alvin Kamara added one rushing score in the win. The Saints recorded four sacks on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and forced the Panthers to settle for four field goals instead of touchdowns.
The Saints got man-handled in their 29-19 Week 1 loss against the Vikings as Brees was limited to one TD pass and the Saints were held to just 60 rushing yards while allowing then Minnesota starter Sam Bradford to toss three TD passes. Of course, that was when the Saints still had veteran running back Adrian Peterson on their roster and when the Vikes were featuring rookie Dalvin Cook as their No. 1 running back.
While a lot has changed since that Week 1 meeting, the Vikings are favored in their divisional round rematch for a reason. Minnesota finished the regular season ranked first in total defense, second against the pass, second against the run and first in points allowed (15.8 ppg). Not only that, but since the Vikings lost Bradford to an injury, they’ve completely taken off under career backup Case Keenum while veteran running back Latavius Murray has been outstanding in replacing Cook as the top rushing threat.
The Vikings closed out the regular season by winning three straight games and an incendiary 11 of their final 12 regular season games overall. Conversely, New Orleans struggled in dropping three of their final six regular-season games before holding on to beat Carolina in their wild card matchup.
As much as I love Drew Brees and admire the campaign that the Saints have had this season, I’m going to urge you to back the Minnesota Vikings to get the win and ATS cover, mostly because they have a phenomenal defense that has held each of their last three opponents and five of their final seven opponents overall, to 10 points or less. Minnesota is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games while the Saints have gone 2-6 ATS in their last eight games while failing to cover the chalk as a 6.5-point home favorite against Carolina this past weekend.
New Orleans is going to find getting into the end zone very difficult against Minnesota and I believe the Vikings offense will be able to put just enough points on the board to make a home win and narrow ATS cover stand up.
Pick: Vikings -3.5