The New Orleans Saints were able to pull off an impressive victory over the Carolina Panthers in the wild-card round of the 2018 NFL playoffs.
Their reward? A matchup with the impressive Minnesota Vikings, a team that was able to overcome multiple key injuries and post a 13-3 record — good for the No. 2 seed in the brutally tough NFC. Facing the Vikings on the road, the Saints are going to need these three X-factors to step up.
The Vikings boast a superb defense, which has allowed the fewest points per game this season (15.8), while also giving up just 83.6 rushing yards and 192.4 passing yards per game. So, the Saints high-powered offense is going to be tested, which is where the bulk of the X-factors will be found.
To be brutally honest, Saints running game faces an uphill battle against the Minnesota defense. The only thing that’s leaning in its favor? The fact that Kamara and Mark Ingram are both incredibly talented.
The Vikings have allowed just 1,095 rushing yards (second-fewest in the NFL) and 489 receiving yards (third-fewest) to opposing running backs.
So, why is Kamara an X-factor? Because if the Saints are able to utilize his pass-catching abilities and somehow manage success against one of the league’s best defenses, then it will open up the rest of the offense.
Kamara needs to be involved early and often through the air.
The Vikings only have given up over 2,200 yards and nine touchdowns through the air this season. Obviously, neither of those numbers put the minds of Saints fans at ease, and I don’t think Michael Thomas is going to be able to get anything going without getting some help.
Fortunately, that’s where Ginn comes into play.
We saw what Ginn’s big-play ability was able to do for the Saints last week against the Panthers, as his 80-yard touchdown catch was the first score of the game. He went on to rack up 115 yards.
The thought process here is that if Ginn can do enough to draw a little attention off Thomas, it’ll make Drew Brees and company’s job a whole lot easier.
To put it as simply as possible, Cameron Jordan has been a monster this year. He has racked up 62 tackles, 13 sacks, 11 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. The Saints can’t rely on their offense to completely dominate one of the best defenses in the NFL, so it’s going to be up to Jordan and the New Orleans defense to make life tough on the Vikings offense.
Jordan needs to consistently bring pressure on Case Keenum while getting his hands up to bat down a few passes as well. If the Saints make Keemun uncomfortable, they will have a great shot to win this game.
Regardless, it’s going to be a tall task, but they’ll need their best pass rusher to be at his best this weekend.