It's a game that needs no introduction – Vikings versus Saints in the playoffs. The anticipation is thick and the storylines are aplenty.
Here are five big ones to keep an eye on this week.
1. U.S. Bank Stadium set to host its first playoff game
Sunday's game will be the second playoff game the Vikings have hosted under head coach Mike Zimmer, but it's the first the Vikings have hosted at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings had one of the most distinct home-field advantage in their previous home stadium, and that has carried into their new home. Zimmer and Co. are counting on Vikings fans to bring it like never before for this game.
"We need the fans to come out early this week, be loud and rowdy, make this the loudest stadium that the Vikings have ever played in, and help us get a win on Sunday," Zimmer said.
2. Vikings last two NFC title game opponents remain alive
The last two opponents for the Vikings in NFC title games – Atlanta in 1998 and New Orleans in 2009 – are alive in the Divisional round of the NFC playoffs. This "revenge tour" storyline has no consequence on the current Vikings team because only Brian Robison was on the roster for the '09 title game loss, but it does have meaning to the fan base. And it will have meaning to the Vikings fans who fill U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday and who will have the opportunity to generate noise when Drew Brees and Co. are on the field.
3. Week 1 matchup may as well have been one season ago
This weekend's Vikings-Saints showdown is a rematch from Week 1, when the Vikings defeated New Orleans 30-19 on *Monday Night *Football. But that game may as well have been a season ago. Sure, schemes and some coaching strategies will remain the same, but key personnel has changed profoundly since that game. The Vikings don't have the same starting quarterback, with Case Keenum having taken over for Bradford, plus star rookie running back Dalvin Cook isn't a part of the Vikings offensive attack anymore. Speaking of running backs, the Saints were dealing with a three-pronged headache at running back. Now, Adrian Peterson is gone and the tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara giving headaches to opposing defenses. On top of that, the Saints didn't have left tackle Terron Armstead or center Max Unger in Week 1, and they did have left guard Andrus Peat but will be without him for this contest. It's essentially a brand-new matchup from a personnel standpoint.
4. Vikings offense vs. Saints defense – not the marquee, but it's key
Minnesota's offense versus New Orleans' defense is the marquee matchup. No one allowed fewer points or yards per game than the Vikings defense, while the Saints offense ranked No. 2 in yards per game and No. 4 in points per game. It's reasonable to suspect both sides will have their fair share of wins in this game, which means the key matchup may actually be the Vikings offense versus the Saints defense.
5. Who's in, who's out?
Dating back to the start of the preseason, this is the 21st game of the season for the Vikings and the 22nd game of the season for the Saints. Over that time span, injuries pile up. New Orleans has been hit hard just as the Vikings have, and the absence of some key players will impact this game. As stated earlier, the Saints will be without a key member of their offensive line – Peat. They've also lost tight end Coby Fleener, two starting linebackers, a starting defensive lineman and a starting safety during the season. The Vikings, meanwhile, are without Bradford, Cook and left guard Nick Easton, but are hopeful to have center Pat Elflein back in the lineup and a much healthier Kyle Rudolph. Elflein missed Week 17 and Rudolph played out the end of the season but did so while grinding through a leg injury. A bye week by virtue of being the No. 2 seed gave the Vikings an extra week to heal some bumps and bruises.