NFL fans get a Christmas present with a rare Friday day NFL matchup when the Minnesota Vikings (6-8, 3-3 away) take on the New Orleans Saints (10-4, 5-2 home) on Christmas day. The Vikings are all but eliminated from the playoff picture, while the Saints are still fighting for the top seed in the NFC. Kickoff is at 4:30 P.M. on Friday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The hosts are seven-point favorites in the divisional contest and first meeting between the two squads this year.
What to Know – Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota is riding a two-game losing skid after dropping a road contest to Tampa Bay and a home loss to the Chicago Bears last week. Those losses have all but squashed the Vikings’ playoff hopes, with most prediction models giving the Vikings a less than 5% chance at a postseason bid.
Kirk Cousins completed 24-of-35 passes against the Bears for 271 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Cousins has thrown for 3,569 yards and 29 touchdowns with two games remaining this season, one shy of tying his career best for touchdown passes.
Dalvin Cook eclipsed the 100-yard for the eighth time this season, carrying the ball 23 times for 132 and his 15th rushing touchdown of the season. The talented back added five catches for 27 yards out of the backfield to surpass 1,800 total offensive yards this season.
Rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson strengthened his position as the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year with eight receptions for 104 yards. The first-year player out of LSU has racked up 73 receptions for 1,182 yards throughout his rookie campaign.
What to Know – New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees returned under center, but like the Vikings, the Saints dropped their second game in as many weeks on Sunday. The loss also put the Saints a game behind for the top overall seed and a coveted first-round bye with two games remaining in the regular season.
It took a while to shake off the rust for Brees, who returned after missing four weeks of play with broken ribs. Brees completed 15-of-34 passes for 234 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. The veteran quarterback didn’t complete a pass until the second quarter of play.
Alvin Kamara rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries and caught three passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. The all-purpose back has now tallied 15 touchdowns while rushing for 777 yards and is the team’s leading receiver with 739 yards.
With Michael Thomas sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, it was off-season signee Emmanuel Sanders who benefitted. Sanders caught four passes for a game-high 76 yards.
The Pick is In
With little to play for, it will be interesting to see what kind of motivation the Vikings enter the game with on Sunday. The Saints, on the other hand, must win out to give themselves a shot at the top overall seed, so the motivation to win is there. New Orleans’ defense is one of the top units in the league and should contain the Vikings’ balanced offensive attack enough to cover the spread.
The Pick: New Orleans Saints (-7).