By: Fran Cava
Kicking off this year’s annual London slate will be an early morning matchup between the offensively challenged New Orleans Saints and the ever-confusing Minnesota Vikings. The Saints come in holding a 1-2 record, with Andy Dalton assuming the role of QB1 this week, over a battered Jameis Winston. Meanwhile, the Vikings fly in high off a good comeback win last week at home against the exciting, young Detroit Lions. Since the, “Minneapolis Miracle”, in 2018, these teams seem to light up the scoreboard when matched up, so a high-scoring affair for the lads in Tottenham could be in store.
Odds, courtesy of Draft Kings
Why you should pick the Minnesota Vikings
I swear it’s the same story every year with the Vikings. Some weeks they look like Superbowl contenders, such as week 1 when they beat down at home against the Packers. Then they proceeded to reverse those narratives by getting shelled on the road in Week 2 against a dangerous-looking Eagles team – with the offense unable to string anything productive together. Justin Jefferson has been silenced the past two games, and now gets another tough secondary matchup with Marshon Lattimore staring him down. With Dalvin Cook being cleared of his questionable status late in the week, expect Mattison to still get an uptick in touches. This is a blessing in disguise for them really, because they need to implement the run more if they want to open up the secondary. They were able to put up 28 last week without their best player sniffing the ball, so while it is an issue that Jefferson has been silenced, there are other avenues for Kirk to get it done on offense.
The defense has been their Achilles heel to this point, surrendering the second most yards in the league. Lucky for them, the Saint’s offense has been putrid, and inserting Andy Dalton in this spot with no Michael Thomas has a recipe for disaster written all over it. The Saints have struggled to limit penalties on both sides of the pigskin, while the Vikings have committed the second-fewest flags in the NFL. Historically speaking, the Vikings handle the Saints very well, leading the all-time matchup 23-13. This is a very favorable matchup for the Vikings, and the line movement from -2.5 to -3.5 after the quarterback change represents that.
Fun Fact: In the last 30 London games, the favorite covered 18 times.
Why you should pick the New Orleans Saints
It’s evident that Jameis was playing through discomfort, but the last few games were hard to watch. The one bright spot, Chris Olave looks like a legitimate weapon for New Orleans moving forward. With Michael Thomas out, he’ll draw more attention this week, but it will be interesting how he commands a bigger role. While I bust Andy Dalton’s chops, he’s one of the better backups in the league and should at least look like a competent NFL player. Alvin Kamara is currently questionable, but if he’s in they will need a monster game out of their top playmaker. Considering what he did last time against the Vikings, it’s fair to say he’s capable of it.
Against a high-powered offense like the Vikings, Andy Dalton will have to put up a few scores to alleviate his defense a little. The problem for the Saints has been the inability of the offense to capitalize on good defensive play. Against Tampa Bay, this was the reason they lost. As they continued to force three and outs, their offense responded with a punt of their own. You keep giving an offense like Minnesota the chance to score, and sooner or later they will make you pay. The Saints in this spot matchup well defensively, with all eyes on the Jefferson/Lattimore matchup. Against physical corners the last two weeks, Jefferson has struggled, and Marshon fits that mold perfectly. If you can lock him up, it forces Cousins to utilize an inconsistent K.J. Osborn and Adam Thielen who is finally starting to show his age. If it gets into a shootout it will be difficult for the Saints to keep up, but if they control the pace of play through Kamara and Taysom’s runs, they can slow down the way the Vikings like to play. In the last three matchups, the Saints have responded to the 2018 heartbreak with two wins, and a 2-1 record against the spread.
God, I hate the NFL for making me wake up so early. This game seems like a really easy pick. Not overthinking it, the Vikings have been gifted a game on the international stage against the shell of the Saints squad. While I believe Jefferson will be quiet again, Kirk showed last week his ability to spread the ball around. They have to utilize the run more if they want more success in the passing game, but regardless they can put up 20 through the air on most teams. The Saints are going to punt a ton this game, and if Alvin Kamara is kept out, this spread is going to jump to 7. The offense they are trucking out simply does not have enough playmakers to get a score when necessary. Expect the Saints to come out strong defensively, but don’t expect the offense to convert their few opportunities. Jordan Hicks will feast against the Saints line and an immobile Dalton, and the Vikings will get revenge for the last time New Orleans put up a 50 burger against them on Christmas day.
Take MIN Vikings -3.5, Over 41