The New Orleans Saints secured a spot in the Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings with a 31-26 win over the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. The matchup between the Saints and Vikings was made with the help of an Atlanta Falcons win over Los Angeles Rams in a mild upset.
The Divisional round matchup is a rematching of the 2009 NFC Championship game where the “Bountygate” Saints defeated the Vikings in over time. The game is still a sore spot for many Vikings fans given the perception of dirty play on the part of the Saints and “the curse”.
The Vikings easily defeated the Saints earlier this season, 29-10, at US Bank Stadium. Many things have changed for both teams since that game. Adrian Peterson was a Saint and Sam Bradford was the starting quarterback for the Vikings. Now the Vikings head into the game with Case Keenum as the starter and the Saints feature a revamped defense and the emergent two-headed monster at running back, Alvin Kamar and Mark Ingram.
Even with the Saints defense improving over the course of the season the matchup should come down to the Saints offense (ranked #2 in the NFL) versus the Vikings defense (#1 in the NFL). The Saints defense may be improved overall but the last two games have given up nearly 28 points per game over the last two. The Vikings offense come in only scoring just under 20 a game over their last two.
The winner of the Vikings and Saints game figures to be the favorite in the NFC Championship game over the winner of the Falcons and Eagles game.