NFC Playoff Betting Preview – New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
The New Orleans Saints traveled to Minneapolis in the opening week of the season and took it on the chin from the Minnesota Vikings. Little did they know they would have to make a return visit, and this time there is a lot more at stake, as they play for a spot in the NFC championship game. Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 4:40 PM ET at US Bank Stadium, and while Fox Network televises the proceedings, BetAnySports customers will have the opportunity to place wagers in real time as they access was available through Live Betting Ultra.
In that first game, Sam Bradford of Minnesota completed 27 of 32 passes but he has missed every other game with an injury. Minnesota put Case Keenum into the lineup, and after a 2-2 start, they have gone 11-2 since. Keenum has been substantially better than just a “game manager,” as he has posted a 98.3 quarterback rating and completed almost 68% of his passes. But there is no doubt that defense has carried the Vikings most of the way. In fact, this is a unit that ranked #1 in the league in points allowed and yards allowed.
They could hardly have come across a bigger challenge; the Saints have really transformed their offense this season, not only adding the element of a running game, but a dynamic and diverse running game at that. At the start, Adrian Peterson was supposed to be the guy adding a lot of horsepower to the backfield, but he was relatively benign in the season opener against his old teammates. Later on, Alvin Kamara, the rookie out of Tennessee, became much more active, and he has been an absolute godsend, with 728 rushing yards (6.1 per carry) and 826 yards in receptions. Drew Brees was, well, Drew Brees; he did not have to throw as many touchdown passes as he had in years past, but he still completed 72% of his throws with 8.1 yards per attempt, and he only got sacked 20 times.
Minnesota is on a quest to be the first team ever to host a Super Bowl on its own home field, and if they can win this week, and then at Philadelphia next week, they can make that happen. They are 13-3 straight-up and 12-4 against the point spread. New Orleans, after beating Carolina last week behind 376 passing yards from Brees, is 12-5 straight-up and 8-9 ATS.
In the NFL playoff betting odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, Minnesota is favored:
Minnesota Vikings -5.5
New Orleans Saints +5.5
Over 46.5 points -110
Under 46.5 points -110
As we talk about ground games, let’s also not ignore what Minnesota was able to do along those lines. In fact, you might say they made even more progress than New Orleans, moving from dead last (32nd) in the NFL to seventh place. And they have done that, for the most part, without rookie Dalvin Cook, who had 122 yards against the Saints the first time around. They have used the tandem of Lataviuss Murray (842 yards) and Jerick McKinnon (570 yards) to get that done, and they come pretty close to having a 50-50 ratio between passing and rushing.
While we do recognize that the Saints have made tremendous strides on defense, ranking third in the NFL with 20 interceptions, the Vikings probably have the top unit in the league. They have held opponents to just 25.2% success on third downs, which is the best figure since this particular statistic has been recorded in the NFL. They have allowed only 5.5 yards per passing attempt and permitted only 13 touchdown passes.
Still, in the game conditions that will be present (indoors), we’re confident in New Orleans’ ability to move the football, especially as this is now a dynamic, multi-varied offense that dealt off Peterson (to Arizona) and has the only pair of running backs in NFL history to have each topped 1500 yards from scrimmage and ten touchdowns. We will look for them to, at the very least, take things to the wire, so we are grabbing the points with the Saints.
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