FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS -

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.

GETTY IM­AGES/PHOTOS

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.

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