Along with five NBA games, Christmas Day brings us one NFL game featuring the 6-8 Vikings and the 10-4 Saints. New Orleans can clinch the NFC South with a win, and they will also be looking to avenge their postseason loss to Minnesota last year in the Superdome.
Christmas Day Prime Time Picks: Vikings (+255) vs Saints (-7) O/U 51 – All lines via DraftKings
Prime Time Picks: 16-16-1
The Return of Drew Brees
After not playing since November 15th with 11 broken ribs, Drew Brees returned for the Saints last week against the Chiefs. Brees started slow, going 0-5 on his first five passes, and it took him until late in the second quarter to complete his first pass. Brees didn’t look as comfortable as he is used to, but that is pretty understandable given the significance of his injury. He was still able to post a decent stat line: 15-of-34, 234 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT. The Saints were down most of the game, and ended up losing a close game 32-29. That made back-to-back losses for the Saints, and they desperately need a win here against a below .500 Minnesota team with Tampa Bay (9-5) closing in on their heels in the NFC South.
As mentioned, Drew Brees returned from injury last week, but the Saints offense will still be pretty banged up. WR Michael Thomas is on IR with an ankle injury that had bothered him all season. WR Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) missed practice on Tuesday, and his status is unknown. Marquez Callaway (knee) was removed from IR on Tuesday, and although his status is unknown, head coach Sean Payton stated that he is “hopeful” Callaway can go. Tackle Andrus Peat and Center Nick Easton are also banged up. It will be interesting to see how the Saints move the ball, but Alvin Kamara is sure to be a big part of their plan. Kamara is having a great season, amassing 777 yards, 4.7 YPC, and 10 TD’s on the ground, along with 80 catches, 739 yards, and 5 TD’s through the air.
Can the Vikings Find a Spark?
After starting the season with high hopes, things just haven’t really panned out for Minnesota this season. The Vikes started 1-5, but rebounded going 5-1 in their next six. That run gave them some playoff hopes, but they have fallen flat in their last two games, losing 26-14 at Tampa Bay, and 33-27 at home to the Bears last week. The 24th-ranked Bears rushing attack gobbled up 199 yards on the ground, and the Vikings defense couldn’t contain David Montgomery at all, as he ran 32 times for 146 yards and 2 TD’s. Their defense will need to step up in this game and make sure the Saints have trouble moving the ball. The Vikings rank 23rd in total defense (378 yards/game) and will be going up against a New Orleans offense that is fairly banged-up.
Dalvin Cook Running Wild
Minnesota RB Dalvin Cook is having a monster season, as his 1,484 rushing yards are second in the league, and his 15 touchdowns are tied for the most among running backs. He is running for 5.0 yards per attempt, and is no doubt the catalyst of the Vikings offense. He will have a tough task ahead of him in this one, as the Saints rushing defense is among the best in the NFL. The Saints are 4th in the league against the run, allowing just 95.6 yards per game on the ground to their opponents. The New Orleans defense also has 40 sacks on the season, which is 6th-most in the league. QB Kirk Cousins has some talented receivers on the outside, but the running game is what Minnesota does best, and getting Cook going will be key if they want to walk out of the Superdome with a win.
Both teams move at a fairly slow pace on offense, and will likely run the ball a lot. Dalvin Cook will get a lot of touches, and Kamara will be leaned on for New Orleans. The Saints rushing defense is very good, and I think they will be able to limit Cook from having a monster game. Kamara averages only about 10-12 rushes per game, but often catches short passes from Brees out of the backfield. The Saints offense loves to methodically move the ball down the field, and with Brees at the helm, along with Michael Thomas out, I expect them to use more of a dink-and-dunk approach. Because of this, I think the clock will be moving, and I am taking the Under.
I am also going to take the Saints -7. After back-to-back losses, they desperately need a win to hold Tampa Bay back behind them in the NFC South. In addition, Drew Brees may have gotten off to a slow start last week, but after figuring things out in the second half, I think he has a better outing in this one. Alvin Kamara will be utilized in both the running game and the passing game, and the Saints are averaging 28.7 points per game at home. The Saints also have the edge defensively, especially against the run, which is what Minnesota does best. The Saints are giving up 95.6 yards per game on the ground, but they have been better at home, giving up just 87.4 on their own turf. Their defense gave up 32 last week to the Chiefs, but I think they bounce back here with a strong outing against a less potent offense. New Orleans -7.
Saints -7 and Under 51
Title Photo: NBC Sports