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Why the Vikings will beat the Saints
The Rams and Buccaneers, the 31st- and 28th-best teams in the NFL standings, have something in common. Beyond being locks for top-five picks in April, they’ve also both beaten the Saints. The Vikings, 2-11 and 30th in the standings, are looking to join them Sunday.
Christian Ponder struggled last week vs. Detroit, there are injuries across the Minnesota defense, and the offensive line is one of the worst in the entire league.
I like the Vikings to win this one.
The Saints have a recent history of December letdowns. In 2009, their Super Bowl year, New Orleans dropped the final three games of the season, losses (albeit meaningless) to the Cowboys, Buccaneers and Panthers. Last year they lost two out of their final three before bowing out of the playoffs in the wild-card round to the 7-9 Seahawks. Why should this year be any different? This one, on the road, has December letdown written all over it.
Can Ponder recover and rebound after his worst performance of the year? I think so.
Adam, I’ll acknowledge this: I looked like an absolute fool last week. I was puffing my chest all week about my Panthers-over-Falcons prediction in the Rivarly Rants. I went out of my way to tell readers that it was a no-brainer and called you out on ol’ Twitter. Then, at halftime, with the Panthers up big, I committed the kiss of death. While you were minding your business, watching the Jets and not causing any trouble, I attacked you. Texts. Tweet. Emails. Taunts to the highest order. Gary Payton-like trash talk.
Sure enough, the Falcons came raging back in the second half, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones — two guys I trashed in last week’s article — connected for the game winner, and I sat in front of the television stunned and embarrassed. I waited for that text from you, Adam. I waited for a gentle nudge. Nothing. You’re all class, my man.
So, you’d think I’d follow your lead, stay grounded and maybe give Drew Brees and Sean Payton some of the respect they deserve for their recent string of impressive wins. Sorry, I just don’t have it in me.
The Saints get a ton of media love —there’s still a puddle of saliva in the broadcast booth from Jon Gruden a few weeks ago — and rightfully so. They’ve been great since those bizarre losses to the Bucs and Rams. But there are holes in that defense. They’re susceptible to big plays, have trouble with athletic tight ends and don’t play so well on the road. Just 4-3 away from the Superdome, they nearly lost last week to a Jake Locker-led Titans team.
Who do I see making differences on Sunday? Rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph could cause nightmares for that spotty Saints secondary. QB Joe Webb, being used in the slot, could be a problem. I like what I saw out of Percy Harvin and Toby Gerhart in the backfield last week, too. Quietly, Jared Allen has 17.5 sacks and can make a run at Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5. He could be tough to handle if the Vikings are in this one late.
The Saints are a better team than the Vikings. I’m a pompous braggart, but I’m not an idiot. I recognize we're dealing with an elite team and one that's had better years. But the Saints have a trap game in them this month. Looking ahead to a big divisional bout with the Falcons next weekend, the Saints fail to bring their A-game to Minneapolis and get caught sleeping. Minnesota began putting it together in the second half of last week's loss to the Lions and had every chance to win that game down the stretch. There's positivity, momentum and a "nothing to lose" attitude in that locker room.
Either way, win or lose, I’ll wait until the end of the game before communicating with you, Mr. Schein.
I learned my lesson last week.
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