FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1 CAN KEENUM HANDLE THE MOMENT?: The Saints are one of nine teams never faced by Vikings QB Case Keenum who, more importantly, is making his first playoff start. Keenum’s career 21-20 won-lost record includes a 12-3 mark this season, when he was intercepted only seven times while throwing 22 TD passes. In his last seven games he has an 11-2 touchdown-interception ratio. LAY IT ON THE LINE: Detailed stats show that Keenum was one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the league this season, while the Saints counted 42 sacks, which was tied for seventh most. Minnesota will have to deal with Cameron Jordan, whose father Steve was a Pro Bowler for the Vikings. Jordan had 13 sacks and is coming off a strong showing against Carolina, while Keenum has no doubt seen replays of David Onyemata’s crushing blow on Cam Newton, CROWD NOISE TURNS ON SAINTS: After their wild card win over the Panthers, Saints coach Sean Payton acknowledged the role played by the noisy Superdome crowd. Now it will be working against the Saints under the closed roof of the 65,000-seat U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Vikings lost only once this season in a 14-7 final to the Detroit Lions on Oct. 1. GROUNDING IT OUT: The dynamic duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara will likely be involved more, and could be the deciding factor, the Saints weakness on defence is along the ground, where they gave up a 16th best 111.7 yards per game. The Vikings rushed for a 7th best 122.3 yards per game. Latavius Murray had a good season as the replacement for Dalvin Cook. He arried the ball at least 20 times in Minnesota’s last three games, racking up 111 yards and two TDs in the regular season finale. JUST FOR KICKS: Starting field position can be instrumental in a game between evenly matched teams, and here the edge goes to Minnesota, which was third in kick off return average and seventh in punt return. Saints were sixth in kick off return average but 25th in punt returns. Minnesota’s Kai Forbath and New Orleans Will Lutz are evenly matched ranked 11th and 12th, with Forbath missing six of 38 field goal attempts and Lutz failing on five of 36.
Drew Brees (9) will have a hard time making big plays against the Minny D. Vikes RB Latavius Murray (left) has been a late-season workhorse.