New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings: Odds, Predictions and Preview (NFL Week 8)

In Week 7, the 5-1 New Orleans Saints were extremely lucky to beat the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 24-23 in a game decided by the Ravens’ missed extra point in the final seconds. The Saints were down 17-7 in the fourth-quarter and climbed back on top by scoring two touchdowns and a field goal in the final 15 minutes of the game.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 22-for-30 for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns, the first one being the 500th of his career. Now Brees and his team, who are 3-0-0 in road games, head to Minnesota to take on a Vikings team that has the eleventh best defense in the league.

The 4-2-1 Minnesota Vikings easily beat the New York Jets in Week 7 by a score of 37-17 in a game where they scored points in every quarter, including 17 in the fourth. The Vikings had to do it without star running back Dalvin Cook, who was forced to sit out due to a hamstring injury.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been earning his $84-million, fully-guaranteed three-year contract by throwing for the third-most yards in the NFL (2,162), 14 touchdowns (T-7th) for a passer rating of 101.8 (11th). Cousins’ Vikings will have to answer the Saints’ future hall-of-famer Brees’ Saints score for score in a matchup that promises to have lots of offense and scoring.

If the Saints win this matchup, they’ll move to 6-2 and stay atop the NFC South at least a game ahead of the Carolina Panthers. But if the Vikings come out on top, they’ll be 5-2 and move two games ahead of the 3-2 Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, who have a Week 8 bye.

Who is favored to win this Week 8 Saints-Vikings matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Saints and the Vikings and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Saints offense all Brees

In Week 7, Saints future hall-of-fame quarterback Brees, already the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader, threw his 500th career touchdown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson, making him only the fourth NFL quarterback to ever do that. This season, Brees has also thrown for more than 400 yards for a record 16th time in his career, broken Peyton Manning’s all-time passing yardage record and, by beating the Ravens, become only the third quarterback to defeat all 32-teams during the course of his career.

Brees certainly doesn’t succeed alone. The Saints passing attack is ranked 6th with the help of Pro-Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas, receiver Cameron Meredith, a recent addition acquired from the Chicago Bears and receiver Tre’Quan Smith, the Saints third round draft pick out of Central Florida. Joining them as another Brees go-to man is tight end Watson, an offseason pickup from the Ravens.

The Saints’ ground attack is only ranked 16th because starting running back Mark Ingram missed the first four games due to a suspension, forcing second-year back Alvin Kamara, who was an All-Rookie and Second-team All-Pro last season, to take all the carries.

The 2018 Vikings offense without a Cook but with a Thielen

The Vikings are 2-1-0 at home with an offense ranked 13th in the league in total yards per game (380.4). They have put up and average of 25.3 points per game, 14th most in the league with an eighth-ranked passing game that on average yields 293.0 yards per game. But the Vikings have a 27th ranked rushing attack that only averages 87.4 yards per game.

Some football experts are calling wide receiver Adam Thielen the best in the NFL right now, and looking at his 2018 stats they could very well be right. Thielen is ranked first in total receiving yards (822), first in receiving yards per game (117.4) and he’s tied for 7th in the league in touchdowns (5).

Running back Dalvin Cook, who sat out Week 7 with a hamstring injury, is questionable for Week 8, and that’s not good news for the Vikings’ 27th ranked rushing game. Backups Latavius Murray and Michael Boone will have to step up and offer a legitimate counter to Cousins’ passing game if they expect to beat a Saints defense who are ranked first overall against the run.

Saints Defense ranks 17th in the league, Vikings D ranks 11th

The Saints’ defense is their biggest weakness right now, ranked in the bottom half of the league with the mediocre numbers to prove it. They’ve only intercepted the ball twice (ranked 28th), sacked opponents’ quarterbacks 13 times (T-27th) and allowed the teams they are playing to convert on 42.3 percent of their third-downs (24th).

First-team All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan already has 5.0 sacks, defended two passes, had 6 quarterback hits and combined for 19 tackles. The Saints secondary is young but talented with cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Marcus Williams both making the All-Rookie team last season.

The Vikings defense has intercepted 7 balls (T-9th) and sacked opponents’ quarterbacks 21 times (T-4th). They should be putting a lot of pressure on Brees in this one, but he’s not easy to intimidate this season, having never been intercepted (T-1st) and having only been sacked 9 times (T-29th).

Injuries could be a factor for the Vikings in Week 8. Starting nose tackle Linval Joseph (ankle/knee) saw limited practice this week, while cornerback Xavier Rhodes (foot) and safety Andrew Sandejo (groin) did not practice at all.

Special Teams Stats Comparison

New Orleans’s veteran punter, Thomas Morstead, is in his tenth year and has punted 15 times for a net average of 44.1 yards per punt, ranked second in the league.

Minnesota’s punter, Matt Wile, in his third year and picked up in September on waivers from the Pittsbugh Steelers, has punted 34 times for a net average of 41.2 yards per punt, ranked 9th in the NFL.

New Orleans’s placekicker since 2016, Wil Lutz, is 12-for-13, his longest was a 49-yarder. He has missed one extra point attempt (18/19).

Minnesota’s recently signed veteran placekicker, Dan Bailey, a former Dallas Cowboy who is considered one of the most accurate place kickers in the history of the NFL, has gone 11-for-14, his longest was a 52-yarder. He hasn’t missed an extra point attempt (11/11).

New Orleans’s punt returner, running back Alvin Kamara, is ranked 44th in the league. He’s returned 5 kicks for 28 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per return, his longest being 12 yards.

Minnesota’s punt returner, cornerback Marcus Sherels, is ranked 24th in the league. He’s returned 12 punts for 98 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 8.2 yards per return, his longest for 20 yards.

Saints–Vikings prediction and odds

The oddsmakers have the Vikings favored over the Saints by 1 with an over/under of 52.0.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:

Pete Prisco goes with the under and has it Vikings 24, Saints 20

John Breech takes the under and predicts it Saints 26, Vikings 23