Things are lining up well in Week 8 for the schedule makers. They placed the Vikings-Saints match up on Sunday Night Football and each team head into the game on fire. The Saints have won five straight and sit atop the NFC South while the Vikings have won three straight and sit atop the NFC North.
Here are five storylines to keep an eye on this week in the build up to Vikings vs. Saints.
1. Brees brings increased challenges for Vikings defense
The level of difficulty will increase for the Vikings defense this week. The Vikings have played three rookie quarterbacks in 2018 – Buffalo's Josh Allen, Arizona's Josh Rosen and the New York Jets Sam Darnold – but their opponent on Sunday is the antithesis of a rookie. Brees has seen it all, is perhaps best known for his accuracy, doesn't hold the ball and is unafraid to be aggressive and give his playmakers opportunities anywhere on the field.
2. From the Miracle Maker (Diggs) to Mr. Minnesota (Thielen), Saints secondary will be tested
In last year's Divisional Round playoff game, it was Stefon Diggs who hauled in the pass from Case Keenum that led to the Minneapolis Miracle. Diggs – the Miracle Maker – has 48 receptions on the season and is one of the NFL's top deep threats. So far in 2018, though, it's been Adam Thielen – Mr. Minnesota – who has paced the Vikings receiving corps. Thielen is rewriting the record books, becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to open the season with seven straight games with 100+ receiving yards. He can line up out wide or in the slot, making the challenge of guarding him even more complex.
3. Vikings rushing attack improving but faces League's top group this week
Mike Zimmer has not been shy about stating his desire that the Vikings rushing attack improve. It has over the past two games, with Latavius Murray leading the way. Murray had a career-high 155 yards against Arizona two weeks ago and then he scored two rushing touchdowns last week against the Jets. Now, the Vikings improving running game will face the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense. The Saints permit only 72.3 rushing yards per game. There's no question the Vikings strength is the passing game, where quarterback Kirk Cousins' 1,921 passing yards ranks No. 2 in the NFL and Adam Thielen leads the NFL in receptions (67) and receiving yards (822), but there's also no question the Vikings want to continue the upward trend with their rushing attack.
4. Everson Griffen rejoins team
The Vikings announced on Tuesday afternoon that Everson Griffen would resume team activities on Wednesday, opening up the possibility that the Vikings could have their starting right defensive end back at an opportune time, with Drew Brees and a high-octane Saints offense coming to town. Griffen hasn't played for the Vikings since Week 2. While Danielle Hunter has been on a tear and Stephen Weatherly has stepped up nicely with the added snaps, the defensive line would get a huge boost with Griffen back in the lineup.
Look back on images from past games between the Vikings and the Saints.
5. Who's in, who's out?
Anthony Barr, Tom Compton, Dalvin Cook, Linval Joseph, Riley Reiff, Xavier Rhodes, Andrew Sendejo. What do they all have in common? They're all starters. And they're all likely to be on the team's injury report this week. All teams deal with injuries and the Saints will certainly have names that bear monitoring, but there's no denying the Vikings enter this NFC showdown significantly banged up.