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Our offense vs. their defense: Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans’ offense slowed down a bit, but they’ve had three straight weeks of solid football.

NFL: Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints will travel north for a bout with the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday.

The Saints offense is coming off their third consecutive week of scoring 20+ points, and based on how the season started, that’s big news for this squad. Nobody had an outstanding game, but I don’t think anyone had a bad game either. It was a very balanced offensive output, and that bodes well for the Saints moving forward.

This Sunday, the Saints offense will face off with the Vikings defense in another important game. The Vikings defense ranks 17th in the NFL in points allowed (21.1) while the Saints offense has move into 15th in points per game (21.7). The law of averages tells you the Saints will probably score 21 points this game, but let’s take a deeper dive into the matchup to see if that’ll hold true.

Let’s talk about the passing game first. Derek Carr currently has the Saints at 10th in the NFL in passing yards per game (239.9) while the Vikings defense ranks 18th in the NFL allowing roughly 225 yards per game. When you look at the Vikings secondary, nobody really sticks out to you. Their starting corners are Akayleb Evans and Byron Murphy Jr. and their safeties are Cameron Bynum and an aging Harrison Smith. The fact that they aren’t bottom five in the NFL in passing yards allowed is a tribute to defensive coordinator, Brian Flores.

Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed should be able to find some separation from these corners, it’s not going to be easy. Flores is great at disguising coverages, so it may seem like Carr has a 1-on-1 with Olave or Thomas, but in reality, it’s a zone and that read gets closed up quickly.

Here’s where things start to get tricky for the Saints offense. The Saints currently rank 18th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, but that number is a little skewed by Taysom Hill. I think we can all agree that the running game in terms of the running backs moving the ball has been subpar this year.

The Vikings defense is 12th in the NFL, allowing just over 100 yards per game on the ground. The Vikings defensive line has some big boys up front who are very good at filling gaps and slowing the run game, so I think it’s going to be another slow day at the office for the running backs. The Saints are going to have to utilize Taysom Hill in the run game again, because he’s by far the most efficient runner on the team.

Despite New Orleans struggles to protect Carr early on this season, they’ve had quite the turn around and are now the 12th best team in the league in terms of sacks allowed. However, the Vikings have a guy named Danielle Hunter who is having one of, if not his best season to date. Hunter already has ten sacks this game, and if the Saints don’t double team him or chip him, he’s going to get after Derek Carr on Sunday.

If this game was played a few weeks earlier, I’d be very concerned for this offense. Carr would be getting hit a lot and with no run game, he’d be forced to throw almost every down.

I do feel a bit better about this matchup after the improvements we’ve seen over the past few weeks. I think the Saints offensive line will be able to protect Carr for the most part, and with Pete Carmichael’s willingness to run Taysom more and more, I think that will allow a lot more things to open up for this Saints offense.

I think the 21-point mark sounds about right for the Saints this week. They may score a few more points if Blake Grupe can hit a few kicks, but I feel like anywhere from 20-27 points should be where the Saints find themselves at the end of this game.

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