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Divisional Game Preview: Vikings-Saints

The Minnesota Vikings (13-3) host the New Orleans Saints (11-5, 1-0 postseason) in the first ever playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings, who had a bye during the Wild Card weekend, are hosting their second playoff game in the past three seasons. The Saints are coming off a 31-26 victory over the Panthers in the Wild Card round. Sunday's matchup is a contest between division champions who both went 7-1 at home in 2017. Minnesota also went 6-2 in road games, and New Orleans was 4-4. The Vikings hold a 2-1 all-time edge in the playoffs over the Saints. The Vikings 13 wins are the second most in the history of the franchise (15-1, 1998).

The Vikings defense led the NFL in yards per game allowed (275.9) for the first time since 1993 and also led the league in scoring defense (15.8 points against per game) in the regular season. The Vikings defense limited opponents to 83.6 rushing yards per game (second in the NFL) and 3.6 yards per rush (fifth in the NFL). Minnesota stifled opponents to 192.4 passing yards per game, second in the NFL, making the Vikings defense the only one in the NFL to rank in the top three in rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed per game.

DE Everson Griffen tied for fourth in the NFL with a career high 13 sacks this season, the third time in his career he has reached double digits (12 in 2014, 10.5 in 2015). LB Eric Kendricks, who has led the Vikings in tackles each of his first three seasons, led the Vikings with 136 tackles (coaches' stats). S Harrison Smith tied his career high with five interceptions in 2017, tied for fifth in the NFL.

The Vikings offense, which finished 11th in the NFL in yards per game (358.9), has been led by the consistent play from WR Adam Thielen, who was fifth in the NFL with 1,276 receiving yards and eighth in the NFL with 91 receptions, and QB Case Keenum, who completed 67.6 percent of his passes (second in NFL), and stepped in to start 14 games, posting a 11-3 record. Keenum compiled 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions and a career-best 98.3 passer rating. RBs Jerick McKinnonand Latavius Murrayfilled the void left when rookie starting RB Dalvin Cooksuffered a torn ACL. McKinnon and Murray helped the Vikings RB group total 2,461 yards from scrimmage this season, the fourth-highest total among all RB groups in 2017.

NATIONAL TELEVISION: FOX

Play-by-Play:Joe Buck   

Analyst: Troy Aikman

Sideline:Erin Andrews and Chris Myers

NATIONAL RADIO: WESTWOOD ONE SPORTS

Play-by-Play:Kevin Harlan           

Analyst: Trent Green

Sideline:Laura Okmin

LOCAL RADIO: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130

Play-by-Play: Paul Allen                  

Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman and Ben Leber

Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman – 1:30 p.m. CT

KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the 72-station, five-state Vikings Radio Network. 

NORSEMAN NOTABLES

The Vikings defense held opponents to a third-down conversion rate of 25.2 percent (51/202), the best mark in the NFL. The offense converted on 43.5 percent (94/216) of third downs, which ranked third in the NFL.

WR Adam Thielenfinished second in the NFL in third-down receptions (32) and yards (428). Out of those catches, 25 converted first downs, which also ranks second in the NFL.

After going 20-of-23 passing (87.0 percent) vs. Cincinnati (12/17), QB Case Keenum set a new career high in completion percentage and had the second-best mark in franchise history behind Brett Favre (88.0 percent vs. Seattle, 11/22/09).

The Vikings offense tied for seventh in the NFL with 68 plays of 20-plus yards, 15 of which came on the ground, tied for fourth in the NFL behind the Eagles (19), Saints (17) and Bills (17).

The Vikings had 12 scoring drives of 80 or more yards in 2017, which was eight more than they totaled in 2016.

The Vikings allowed only 27 sacks this season, tied for the seventh-fewest in the NFL and had five games without allowing a sack, tying a franchise record for most in a single season.

S Harrison Smith was one of two players in the NFL (Jordan Poyer, BUF) with 70-plus tackles, 1.0 or more sacks and at least five interceptions in 2017.

The Vikings defense allowed only 20 runs of 10 or more yards in 2017, the fewest in the NFL this season and tied with the 1995 San Francisco 49ers for the fewest in the NFL since 1991.

The Vikings defense held opponents to one or fewer third-down conversion in four games this season, tied with Arizona for the most in the NFL. The Vikings held Tampa Bay to 1-for-6, Atlanta to 1-for-10, Cincinnati to 1-for-13 and Chicago to 1-for-12 on third downs.

STAT OF THE WEEK

VIKINGS AP ALL PROS

The Vikings had four players named to the *Associated Press *All-Pro teams for 2017. It marks the first time under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer that a defensive player earned an AP All-Pro honor.

AP All-Pro 1st Team

CB Xavier Rhodes

S Harrison Smith

AP All-Pro 2nd Team

DE Everson Griffen

DB Xavier Rhodes

WR Adam Thielen

VIKINGS-SAINTS CONNECTIONS

Vikings DE Tom Johnson appeared in his first NFL action with the New Orleans Saints in 2011. Johnson played three seasons with the Saints from 2011-2013 after spending time in NFL Europa, the CFL and Arena League.

Vikings LB coach Adam Zimmer got his first coaching experience from 2006-2009 with the Saints. He served as the team's assistant defensive backs coach during the team's Super Bowl season in 2009.

Saints LBs Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodgesboth played for the Vikings, joining the club as members of the 2013 draft class in Minnesota. Mauti appeared in 23 games for the Vikings from 2013-14, and Hodges appeared in 29 games (10 starts) for the club from 2013-15.

Saints FB Zach Lineoriginally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings in 2013. Line played for the Vikings from 2013-16, appearing in 35 games (10 starts) with Minnesota.

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Vikings DE Danielle Hunter and Tashawn Bower attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Vikings DT Tom Johnson, T Rashod Hill, QB Kyle Sloter(later transferred to Northern Colorado) and DT Dylan Bradley (practice squad) attended the University of Southern Mississippi in nearby Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Vikings strength & conditioning assistant Derik Keyes held the same title at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2011 after playing S there from 2004-08. Keyes also attended Lafayette (LA) High School.

Vikings CB Tramaine Brock is a Long Beach, Mississippi native and attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Long Beach.

COLLEGE CONNECTIONS

Vikings C Pat Elflein attended Ohio State with Saints WR Michael Thomas, S Vonn Bell(2013-15) and CB Marshon Lattimore (2015-16).

Saints RB Trey Edmunds played with Vikings WR Stefon Diggs at Maryland from 2013-14.

Saints DE Al-Quadin Muhammad was teammates with Vikings WR Stacy Coley and G Danny Isidora at Miami from 2013-16.

Saints LB Manti Te'oattended the University of Notre Dame (2009-12) with Vikings S Harrison Smith (2009-11), TE Kyle Rudolph(2009-10) and WR Michael Floyd (2008-11).

BIG DAYS

During his rookie campaign, Vikings LB Anthony Barr recorded his third of four straight games with double-digit tackles, tallying 10 at New Orleans (9/21/14). Barr also added a sack and a pass defensed in what was his third career start.

QB Sam Bradford threw for 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on 27-of-32 passing (84.4 percent) vs. New Orleans (9/11/17) in Week 1. Bradford, who set a new career high in completion percentage (84.4) and passer rating (143.0) against the Saints, earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance.

WR Stefon Diggs caught seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns vs. New Orleans (9/11/17), one of three career games with multiple touchdowns.

WR Adam Thielen totaled 157 yards on nine receptions vs. New Orleans (9/11/17), the third-most receiving yards in his career.

LB Emmanuel Lamurset a career-best mark with eight solo tackles at New Orleans (11/16/14) as a member of the Bengals. Lamur tallied 10 total tackles in the game.

S Harrison Smithtied his career high with three passes defensed in at New Orleans (9/21/14). Smith totaled eight tackles in the contest.

Anthony Barr: 2 games, 18 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 TFL, 1 pass defensed

Stefon Diggs: 1 game, 7 receptions, 93 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Harrison Smith: 2 games, 15 tackles, 4 passes defensed

Adam Thielen: 2 games, 9 receptions, 157 receiving yards

SERIES INFO

Record vs. Saints: Vikings 21-11

Last regular season game: Vikings 29, Saints 19 (2017)

Vikings largest winning margin: Vikings 45, Saints 3 (1988)

Saints largest winning margin : Saints 26, Vikings 0 (1991)

Current series streak: Vikings 1

Vikings longest win streak: 6 (1970-1978)

Saints longest win streak: 4 (2009-14)

Most Points, Vikings: 45 (1988)

Most Points, Saints: 42 (2011)

Most Points, both teams 69; Vikings 38, Saints 31 (2004)

Fewest Points, Vikings: 0 (1991)

Fewest Points, Saints: 0 (1970)

Fewest Points, both teams: 23; Saints 14, Vikings 9 (2010) 

SERIES NOTES

This will be the third time for the Saints to play in Minnesota in the past 10 years.

The Vikings have dominated the series while playing at home, collecting a 13-3 mark in Minnesota.

The two franchises have met three times in the postseason with Minnesota holding a 2-1 edge.

The Saints and Vikings have previously met in the Divisional round of the playoffs one time, a 34-16 win at the Metrodome after the 2000 season.

A WIN WOULD

Clinch a trip to the NFC Championship game for the Vikings for the first time since 2009. 

Be the first Vikings playoff win at U.S. Bank Stadium in the first ever playoff game at the venue.

Move Mike Zimmer's playoff record to 1-1.

Be the Vikings first playoff win since vs. Dallas on Jan. 17, 2010, in a game played at the Metrodome.

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