In the 2017 playoffs, the New Orleans Saints were shocked by the “Minneapolis Miracle” as Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings made a 61-yard catch and run for a touchdown with time running out. Last season the Saints got some measure of revenge when they beat the Vikings 38-20 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Now these teams meet in the 2019 pre-season opener, scheduled for 8 PM ET at the Superdome in New Orleans.
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As usual, the real storylines will not necessarily involve the incumbent starters, but either those who are angling for a starting position or are jockeying for backup roles.
The Vikings certainly want to do everything they possibly can to keep Dalvin Cook healthy, as he’s been struggling with injuries the last two years. And Latavius Murray left for the Saints, so he’ll be wearing the other team’s uniform. So the #2 running back spot becomes relevant, and that is principally a battle between Alexander Mattison, the third-round pick from Boise State, who is noted for his blocking ability, and Ameer Abdullah, the former Nebraska star who never quite got over the hump with the Detroit Lions.
In most training camps, there is a quarterback competition as it takes place “below the line,” so to speak, and there are some interesting stories to be has there, at least on the Minnesota side of things. Sean Mannion, who has been known as a pretty capable backup, is in camp after four seasons with the Rams. And the Vikings made “history” of sorts when they signed Jake Browning, giving him more guaranteed money ($140,000) than any other undrafted free agent ever. So these people will be in action, along with Kyle Sloter, who will be trying to hold onto his #3 job.
And Kirk Cousins will get some snaps as well. Cousins, who threw for 30 touchdowns last year but still only led his team to an 8-7-1 record, has mentioned, of all things, that rookie center Garrett Bradbury has sweat profusely in the buttocks area of his uniform, and that it has occasionally affected the snap exchange (you can’t make this stuff up). Inasmuch as Bradbury, a first-round draft pick out of N.C. State, is the likely starter, these guys need to work on that. You may laugh, but if that problem is real, it could have a material effect on the first half.
In the NFL pre-season odds on this game, the Saints are favored:
New Orleans Saints -2.5 (-105)
Minnesota Vikings +2.5 (-105)
Over 37.5 points (-105)
Under 37.5 points (-105)
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On the New Orleans side, quarterback likely to get the bulk of the snaps is Teddy Bridgewater, the former Viking who who may actually have a future with the Saints after Drew Brees retires. Speaking of Brees, he’s always been known as someone who can turn water into wine as far as his receiving corps is concerned. Last year he completed 125 passes to Michael Thomas, who is currently holding out. But the next wide receiver down the list had only 28 catches. Needless to say, there is some competition in camp among a host of wideouts just to see who the #2 guy is going to be . Candidates would include the likes of Tre’Quan Smith, Austin Carr and Keith Kirkwood (who’s been dealing with injuries), not to mention the aging Ted Ginn.
But there are a couple of other interesting entries as well. Cyril Grayson Jr. has been knocking around for a year or two; he is q world-class sprinter, having been named to seven different All-American teams in track and field at LSU. And Emmanuel Butler, who went undrafted, was turning heads at camp before missing five days with a minor injury. And then there is the addition of Jared Cook, who could wind up making the tight end position great again in the Big Easy.
We fully recognize that Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer is a guy who goes out there to win in the pre-season, and he has a 14-7 ATS record to show for it. But Minnesota will take a long look at a couple of QB’s whose arms are a little “short,” and the offensive line is still learning a zone blocking scheme that Gary Kubiak, the new “offensive advisor,” brought over with him. We’ll lay the points with the Saints here.
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