It’s the Divisional Round and the New Orleans Saints have made it another week! And just like that, we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Christopher Gates of Daily Norseman is back and answers 5 quick questions before Saints vs Vikings Week 1 rematch.
We all know that these two teams do not look the same since their Week 1 match-up with injuries and player growth happening for both teams on both sides of the ball. The entire NFL is aware of the losses of QB Sam Bradford and RB Dalvin Cook, but who are some other players that will play this week that didn’t play in Week 1 (or had lighter workloads) that Saints fans might not be aware of?
Well, because of Cook’s presence, the Vikings’ current backfield tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon had just five total carries for 11 yards in the Week 1 matchup (and three receptions, all by McKinnon). Obviously, both of their workloads have increased, and despite Cook’s absence, they’ve performed well enough to give the Vikings the #7 rush offense in the NFL a year after they finished dead last in that category. On the defensive side, both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander have shown massive improvements as this season has gone on, so I imagine they’ll have an impact on Sunday’s game, too.
(Correct me if I’m wrong, but) I don’t believe there are any players on the Vikings 2017 team that were members of the 2009 squad. While fans are more than aware of the 2009 NFC Championship Game, how much of an impact do you think that plays into the current group of players for Minnesota?
The only Viking that’s left from the 2009 team is defensive end Brian Robison, who has seen his snaps reduced as a backup this season. Honestly, the 2009 thing is definitely more for the fans than it is for any of the players on the field. Plenty of Vikings fans are still pretty angry about what happened that year, and I’m sure they’re more fired up about the game for those reasons than the players are.
If you were Dennis Allen, the Saints’ Defensive Coordinator, how would you gameplan to stop the Minnesota offense?
I think his best bet is going to have to involve sending extra players after Case Keenum and hoping that the back end can hold up. The Vikings’ offense is going to be almost completely healthy going into this one, and after seeing what the Panthers did to the Saints’ defense on the road last week, I’m sure that Pat Shurmur has seen some things that he thinks Minnesota’s offense can take advantage of. Keenum has been one of the NFL’s best this season when it comes to handling pressure and handling the blitz, but if the Saints try to lay back and play coverage against him, it probably won’t end well for them.
What player that Saints fans might not have heard of do you expect to make a big impact on the game?
It might be tight end David Morgan. With Kyle Rudolph having the sort of year that he’s had this season, the Saints might be inclined to pay extra attention to him. Morgan, who was known primarily as a blocking tight end before this season, has gotten some opportunities to catch some passes and has actually done fairly well for himself in that regard. He could be another player that Keenum looks for if he can’t find any of his primary threats.
Final predictions for the game? Score?
The popular narrative is that the Saints are a much different team than they were in Week 1. The Vikings, however, are still a team that went 13-3 and are fielding a defense that has been outstanding at home this season. With a week off to prepare and a raucous home crowd, I think the Vikings are going to come out of this one with a win and, hopefully, a chance to host the NFC Championship Game in this same building. I’ll go with 27-20 in favor of Minnesota.
Thank-you, Christopher, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Christopher and the work the rest of the writers are doing over at Daily Norseman. You can follow Daily Norseman on Twitter @DailyNorseman, Christopher @GatesDN, and as always you can follow me @dunnellz.