Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

WC - Vikings at Saints

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The NFC Wild Card round kicks off at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans as the Saints (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS) finished with the exact same record as last season when they held home-field advantage in the playoffs. However, since San Francisco and Green Bay owned tiebreakers with identical 13-3 marks, New Orleans was relegated to the Wild Card round for the fifth time since 2010.

The Saints cruised to their third consecutive NFC South title as their three division foes all finished below the .500 mark. New Orleans actually concluded the 2019 season with a better road record (7-1) than at home (6-2), as five playoff teams posted a 7-1 away mark (Chiefs, Ravens, 49ers, and Seahawks the others). The road ledger doesn’t mean much here as the Saints have compiled a 21-6 SU and 13-14 ATS mark in the last three seasons at the Superdome.

After losing the NFC Championship rematch with the Rams in Week 2 and quarterback Drew Brees to a thumb injury, the Saints banded together behind backup Teddy Bridgewater to win five consecutive games. During that unexpected hot stretch, New Orleans won at Seattle and knocked off Dallas in the underdog role, while four of the five wins came as a ‘dog. Brees returned in Week 8 against Arizona and continued the winning streak with a blowout of the Cardinals, 31-9 as 12 ½-point favorites.

New Orleans was tripped up by Atlanta following the bye week as 14-point home favorites, 26-9, but the Saints won the next three games to wrap up the NFC South championship on Thanksgiving night. The Saints fell short in the most exciting game of the season against the top-seeded 49ers in Week 14 in a 48-46 setback in spite of 349 yards and five touchdown passes from Brees. New Orleans closed out the regular season with three straight wins by double-digits each, but the scenarios didn’t work out for the Saints to grab a first-round bye.

The Vikings (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) were on the doorstep of the Super Bowl two seasons ago after shocking the Saints in the NFC divisional round (more on that in a moment), but were flattened by the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in the conference title game. Minnesota fell flat in 2018 with a 8-7-1 record and missed the postseason, but the Vikings rebounded to make the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons.

Following a 2-2 start, the Vikings won four consecutive games, although only one of those victories came against a playoff squad (Philadelphia in Week 6). Minnesota was in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card berth, but couldn’t catch Green Bay for the top spot in the NFC North as the Vikings lost their final two games of the season to settle for an opening weekend contest in the playoffs.

The Vikings split eight games away from U.S. Bank Stadium this season, as Minnesota eclipsed the 28-point mark in five of those contests. In the role of a road underdog, Mike Zimmer’s squad won at Dallas, but lost to a pair of playoff teams on the road in setbacks to Green Bay and Seattle, while also falling on the highway at Kansas City as a favorite. Dating back to last season, the Vikings have lost seven of eight games to playoff clubs, with the lone victory coming at Philadelphia in 2018.

In one of the most famous playoff finishes in recent memory, the Vikings stunned the Saints, 29-24 in the 2017 divisional round. The “Minneapolis Miracle” began as a Vikings’ blowout with them cruising past New Orleans to a 17-0 halftime lead before Brees rallied the Saints to a 24-23 advantage in the final minute. Case Keenum kept Minnesota’s season alive by hooking up with wide receiver Stefon Diggs on a 61-yard touchdown strike as time expired to give the Vikings the dramatic triumph. However, the Vikings failed to cash as 5 ½-point favorites as Keenum kneeled on a pointless two-point conversion, which ultimately led to a rule change eliminating extra point tries on a walk-off touchdown.

New Orleans and Minnesota didn’t meet this season, but the Saints picked up a modicum of revenge in 2018 with a 30-20 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Saints fell behind in the first half again, trailing 13-7 before New Orleans scored 23 unanswered points, which included three Wil Lutz field goals, an Alvin Kamara touchdown run and an interception return for a touchdown. Brees only threw for 120 yards, compared to the 359 yards racked up Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, but the former Michigan State standout owns a 2-10 record with the Vikings against teams with winning records.

The Saints have failed to cover in their last three home playoff games since 2017, including in the Wild Card round two seasons ago against Carolina. New Orleans jumped out to a 21-6 advantage as 6 ½-point favorites, while leading 31-19 with 5:08 remaining. However, Panthers’ star running back Christian McCaffrey broke away on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to help Carolina grab the road cover in spite of a 31-26 defeat.

Last season, the Saints erased a 14-0 deficit to the Eagles by outscoring Philadelphia, 20-0 over the final three quarters for a 20-14 win in the divisional round as 8 ½-point favorites. The NFC Championship at the Superdome wasn’t so super for the Saints, who squandered a 13-0 lead in a 26-23 overtime setback to the Rams, which was capped off by the pass interference not called in the final two minutes, which would have given New Orleans a first down and run the clock down for the game-winning field goal.

The Vikings last won a Wild Card game in 2004 at Green Bay, while dropping Wild Card contests in 2008, 2012, and 2015. The only good news for Minnesota is at least one road underdog has escaped Wild Card weekend in the NFC in three of the past four seasons, including Philadelphia’s 16-15 triumph of Chicago last season.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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