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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings draw toughest Division Round matchup in Saints

By Matthew Coller

Ask any Minnesota Vikings fan and they will tell you: Nothing ever comes easy for this franchise. Nothing ever comes easy in Mike Zimmer’s head coaching career. And if the Vikings are going to advanced to the Conference Championship, they will have to beat the most impressive team in the NFC to do so.

The New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers on Sunday to earn a rematch with the Vikings at US Bank Stadium.

In their Week 1 game at US Bank, the Vikings won 29-19, but both teams have changed quite a bit since then. Sam Bradford threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns back on September 11 and Dalvin Cook went for over 100 yards rushing. Neither will be in the lineup when they play this weekend.

The Saints’ defense, which looked confused at times and struggled mightily against the Vikings’ offensive attack, improved by leaps and bounds in the subsequent weeks. They finished with the seventh best quarterback rating against and ranked third in the NFL in interceptions.

Minnesota’s defense will look identical to the club that walked out onto the field Week 1. Every starter in the lineup that night will start against the Saints on January 14. They finished the year No. 1 in yards allowed and No. 1 in points allowed.

Their biggest disadvantage might be history, which favors quarterbacks with Drew Brees’ resume. Prior to Sunday’s game against the Panthers, Brees averaged 321 yards per playoff game in his career with a 100.7 rating and one Super Bowl ring.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback has weapons. Running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for over 3,000 yards from scrimmage this season and receiver Michael Thomas finished the regular season with 104 receptions.

Combine the Saints’ HOF QB and strong passing defense and you have the toughest possible matchup for the Vikings.

Minnesota would have played the Los Angeles Rams had they defeated the Atlanta Falcons. While the Rams were an excellent regular season team, their starting QB Jared Goff played in his first playoff game Saturday night. And while the Vikings lost to the Panthers, they rank poorly in a number of key offensive and defensive categories. Carolina has a weak receiving corps and offensive line, which the Vikings could have exploited.

The Vikings will have a shot at a redemption tour. They lost to the Saints in the Conference Championship in overtime to conclude the 2009 season. If they beat New Orleans, there’s a chance they will face the Atlanta Falcons, who beat the Vikings in the Conference Championship in 1998.

The post Vikings draw toughest Division Round matchup in Saints appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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