The New Orleans Saints' week 3 matchup against the Carolina Panthers was... not optimal to put it lightly. One of their major issues on defense was the rushing defense, which allowed Christian McCaffrey to have the first game of his career against New Orleans with 75+ rushing yards at 108. Now they will be going to London for their second “home” game of the season and have to likely take on Dalvin Cook who practiced this Thursday after a shoulder injury last weekend.
In this article, I will be breaking down the Saints’ run defense so far this season as well as the Minnesota Vikings' run offense and then projecting which of these units has the upper hand for this week 4 matchup. You can check out the odds for this one courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
How have these two units looked so far in 2022?
The Saints' run defense has been very hit or miss, as they will hold when necessary but give up big chunk plays in between. On the season they are tied for 12th lowest yards per carry allowed but have given up the 7th most rushing yards on the season and have allowed the 12th most first downs via running. It is also worth noting that they have had the 3rd most rushing attempts put against them at 99 so far this season, so this is likely a contributor to the high yards allowed total.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings have had the 19th most rushing yards at 311, the 15th most rushing first downs, but are tied for the 7th highest yards per carry at 4.9. overall, across both units, there have been some ups and downs throughout the season, as both have been efficient at what they do, but not highly productive.
What should we expect from these units in week 4?
The main key to breaking this down will be whether or not Vikings’ star running back Dalvin Cook plays this weekend. It is trending towards him being likely to play after destabilizing his shoulder, but this injury could have Minnesota limiting his snaps in favor of Alexander Mattison. Granted, both of these backs are quality producers typically, but Cook has more versatility out of the backfield on screens and is quite a bit more elusive, which is harder for the Saints' front 7 to handle. Another key to watch will be whether or not Marcus Davenport plays this week, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury so far and was limited on Wednesday, and full-on Thursday. Having both starting defensive ends will be huge for the Saints.
If all goes according to plan, with Davenport and Cook playing, odds would be that the Vikings will have the upper hand in this matchup. The Saints' run defense has struggled against Cordarrelle Patterson and Christian McCaffrey so far, allowing both over 100 yards, and breaking down late in games because they are forced to stay on the field for long periods of time with the lack of offensive production. As much as it would be nice to see the Saints get the offense on the field and keep it there for a while, the odds of that just changing in the course of a week are unlikely, and Dalvin Cook is, well, Dalvin Cook. Having to be on the field for a long period of time against someone as elusive as Dalvin is not a great concept and could lead to some struggles again for the Saints’ front 7.