The Minnesota Vikings are headed into their final season as the NFC’s dominant NFC North team and they’ll be playing the Saints for the final time this weekend.
With Minnesota in the midst of a two-game losing streak and the Saints on a four-game winning streak, the Vikings will have to play their way out of the division race by beating the Saints, a team that has won four of their last five.
However, if the Vikings manage to beat the Saints in Week 17, it would seal their playoff fate, which would leave them just one game behind the Seattle Seahawks and one game ahead of New Orleans for the division lead.
With a bye week to prepare for the rematch with Seattle, the Minnesota Vikings can get ahead of their opponents and avoid a third consecutive loss in a row.
Here are the five storylines to watch this weekend for the Vikings and Saints: 1.
Vikings vs. Saints on Sunday Night Football The Vikings have a history of winning when facing the Saints.
Minnesota is 9-1 against New Orleans in their last 11 games.
During that span, the Saints have won four straight.
The Vikings won in Minneapolis on December 15, 2018, in front of 20,500 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
This is the second time this season that the Vikings have faced the Saints since beating the NFC South-leading Carolina Panthers in Week 1.
The Panthers defeated the Vikings 27-21 in Week 2, but the Vikings’ win came on a Monday night game.
They have not lost to the Saints during the regular season since beating them 35-13 in Week 12, 2017.
How to watch: The Vikings and the NFC West rivals have been linked for a while.
Minnesota’s win in Minnesota is the latest chapter in a rivalry that has lasted over 30 years.
During the Saints’ run to the NFC Championship game in 2016, they played the Minnesota-Arizona Cardinals twice in the span of three years.
That’s not a coincidence.
Both teams have had the franchise tag since the beginning of the franchise.
However this season, Minnesota has only two seasons with a tag attached, so the Vikings don’t count against the salary cap this season.
The Saints have two seasons of tags attached to them, which means they have to pay a team $20 million to retain a player.
Minnesota has yet to make that decision.
They are currently $14.9 million under the cap.
However they have had some success in free agency, signing defensive tackle Dwan Edwards in 2017, linebacker Zachary Kendricks in 2018 and cornerback Tramaine Brock in 2019.
The team is currently on the verge of being able to bring back a number of key players who were on the roster last season, including defensive end Xavier Cooper and quarterback Ryan Lindley.
Who’s going to score first: After leading the NFL with 28.8 points per game last season and winning the NFC North, Minnesota’s quarterback Christian Ponder leads the NFL in completion percentage and yards per attempt.
However he’s struggled in the playoffs and hasn’t been very good in the regular seasons.
Last season, he threw for just 4,924 yards and 18 touchdowns with 16 interceptions and nine fumbles.
Ponder has thrown for 4,721 yards and 25 touchdowns with 15 interceptions and 14 fumbles this season as he leads the NFC in completion percentages, yards per pass attempt and completion percentage.
The quarterback has yet the number of touchdowns he has in the past, but he has also been sacked five times and has had a touchdown pass intercepted once.
The biggest difference between this year and last is that Ponder was in the NFL for a longer period of time.
He was a rookie and had the opportunity to make the postseason before the injury-shortened 2016 season.
Pominay also missed a few games with an ankle injury in the postseason.
What’s at stake: The Saints are one of the NFL’s best defenses, allowing just 29.4 points per contest.
They’ve allowed only 12.3 points per attempt in the first four games of the season.
That includes an early win over the Vikings in Minnesota, a 34-10 win over Carolina and a 31-17 loss to Washington in New Orleans.
However the Saints are on the back foot with a losing record for the second straight year.
They finished the season ranked last in the league at 7-9 and went 0-6 in the second half of the regular campaign.
The Minnesota defense has played well in recent weeks, but will be a tougher test than they were in the beginning.
The NFL MVP candidate Drew Brees will be the focus of the Saints defense.
The last time he faced the Vikings was in Week 6, 2016, when the Saints beat the Vikings 31-10.
Brees was only throwing for one touchdown and two interceptions in the game.
He threw two touchdown passes in the last five games of his career, including a scoreless streak in Week 10 against Dallas.
Who should win: This is a big game