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Game Preview: Vikings-Saints

EAGAN, Minn. — It won't be easy for the Vikings in the Big Easy, but a certain degree of difficulty is to be expected when a team is playing January football.

The Minnesota Vikings (10-6) are the No. 6 seed in the NFC Playoffs and will visit the New Orleans Saints at 12:05 p.m. (CT) Sunday to open the postseason.

New Orleans is the third team since the NFL expanded the postseason field to six teams per conference in 1990 to finish a regular season at 13-3 yet still land in a Wild Card game.

The other two were the 1999 Tennessee Titans, who advanced to Super Bowl XXXIV, and the 2011 Saints, who lost at San Francisco in the Divisional round.

Minnesota made the playoffs for the 30th time in the team's 59 seasons and for the third time in six seasons under Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Sunday's game will be Zimmer's 100th with Minnesota (excludes preseason) and the 50th playoff game in Vikings history.

Minnesota's offense ranked 16th in yards per game (353.5), 10th in yards per play (5.83), sixth in rushing yards per game (133.3), 23rd in passing yards per game (220.2) and eighth in points per game (25.4).

New Orleans' offense ranked ninth in the NFL in yards per game (373.9), sixth in yards per play (5.92) and 16th in rushing yards per game (108.6). The Saints ranked seventh in passing yards per game (265.3) and third in points per game (28.6).

The Vikings were fifth in the NFL in points against (18.9 per game), 14th in yards allowed per game (341.6), 13th in rushing yards allowed per game (108.0) and 15th in passing yards allowed per game (233.6).

The Saints ranked 13th in the NFL in points against (21.3 per game), 11th in yards allowed per game (333.1), fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (91.3) and 20th in passing yards allowed per game (241.8).

TV BROADCAST

FOX (KMSP FOX 9 in the Twin Cities)

Kickoff: 12:05 p.m. (CT)

Play-by-Play: Joe Buck

Analyst: Troy Aikman

Sideline Reporters: Erin Andrews and Chris Myers

ON MOBILE

Because this is a national broadcast, fans from coast to coast will be able to watch the game on their iOS mobile devices with the VIKINGS APP or VIKINGS MOBILE SITE (Safari browser only).

LOCAL RADIO

KFAN 100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis/St. Paul

Play-by-Play: Paul Allen

Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman & Ben Leber

Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 10 a.m. (CT)

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

NATIONAL RADIO

Play-by-Play: Kevin Kugler

Analyst: Jason Taylor

Sideline Reporter: Scott Kaplan

STAT OF THE WEEK

The Vikings averaged 40.0 more rushing yards per game in 2019 than in 2018. Only Baltimore (plus-53.4 yards per game) and Arizona (plus-40.5) had a bigger improvement this season.

NORSEMAN NOTES

The Vikings offense allowed 28 sacks in 2019, which tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL. That total was 12 fewer than the 40 allowed in 2018.

QB Kirk Cousins finished 2019 with a passer rating of 107.4, which ranked fourth in the NFL this season and as the second-highest by a Vikings QB in any season. His previous career best was 101.6 with Washington in 2015.

Cousins ranked fourth in the NFL in completion percentage (69.1) and eighth with 26 touchdown passes in 2019.

Dalvin Cook, who missed Weeks 16-17, finished fourth in the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also ranked seventh in the NFL with 1,654 scrimmage yards.

Stefon Diggs set a new career-high of 1,130 receiving yards, giving him back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the first time in his career. Diggs ranked fourth in the NFL with 17.9 yards per catch.

Danielle Hunter tied his single-season career best of 14.5 sacks, which tied for fourth in the NFL in 2019. He became the youngest player (25 years, 40 days) to record 50 career sacks.

Eric Kendricks tied for the league lead among linebackers with 12 pass breakups on the season. He also finished the season as Minnesota's leading tackler, extending his streak to five consecutive years, which trails only Scott Studwell and Chad Greenway for the franchise record. Studwell and Greenway led Minnesota for six consecutive seasons.

Anthony Harris tied for the league lead with six interceptions in 2019. He became the first Vikings player to lead the league in interceptions since Brian Russell in 2003.

VIKINGS-SAINTS CONNNECTIONS

Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer was the assistant linebackers coach for the Saints from 2006-09.

Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater (2014-17), RB Latavius Murray (2017-18), FB Zach Line (2013-16) and C/G Nick Easton (2015-18) played for the Vikings.

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Vikings TE Irv Smith, Jr., is from New Orleans. The rookie turned 21 on Aug. 9, 2019, when Minnesota played in New Orleans to open the preseason slate for both teams.

COACHING CONNECTIONS

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer (2000-06) served as the Cowboys defensive coordinator and overlapped with Saints Head Coach Sean Payton (2003-05) when Payton was the assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach in Dallas.

Minnesota Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf and New Orleans Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi were on the coaching staff at Rutgers from 2002-03.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards (2012-13) and Maalouf (2013-18) were on the Dolphins staff with Rizzi (2010-18) for parts of their careers.

PROFESSIONAL CONNECTIONS

Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak, offensive line coach and run game coordinator Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani were on the Texans staff when Saints DB D.J. Swearinger, Sr., played for the Texans from 2013-14.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins teamed with Swearinger in Washington in 2017.

Maalouf and Saints LB Stephone Anthony overlapped in Miami from 2017-18.

Vikings QB Sean Mannion and Saints CB Janoris Jenkins teamed at the Rams in 2015.

Minnesota RB Ameer Abdullah (2015-18) and T Riley Reiff (2012-16) were on the Detroit roster with New Orleans RB Dwayne Washington (2016-17).

Vikings G Dakota Dozier teamed with Saints LB Demario Davis at the Jets from 2014-15 and in 2017.

Minnesota T Rashod Hill and New Orleans G Patrick Omameh teamed in Jacksonville in 2016.

Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray was Titans defensive coordinator for two of the seasons that Saints TE Jared Cook played for Tennessee.

Minnesota G Josh Kline and New Orleans DT Malcom Brown played for the Patriots together in 2015.

COLLEGE CONNECTIONS

Vikings CB Mike Hughes and Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith at UCF

Minnesota G Pat Elflein and DT Jalyn Holmes with New Orleans CB Marshon Lattimore, S Vonn Bell and CB Eli Apple at Ohio State

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and CB Xavier Rhodes with Saints CB P.J. Williams and DE Mario Edwards, Jr., at Florida State

Minnesota S Harrison Smith and TE Kyle Rudolph at Notre Dame with New Orleans LB Manti Te'o

Vikings CB Mackensie Alexander and S Jayron Kearse at Clemson with Saints LB Stephone Anthony

VIKINGS TOP PERFORMERS VS. SAINTS

Offense

Kirk Cousins: 3 games (3 starts; 2 with Washington and 1 with Minnesota), 73-of-98 passing, 1,005 yards, 9 TDs, 1 INT, passer rating of 133.2; 5 rushes for 14 yards

Stefon Diggs: 3 games (3 starts), 23 receptions, 349 yards, 4 TDs

Adam Thielen: 4 games (4 starts), 22 receptions, 334 yards, TD

Dalvin Cook: 1 game (1 start), 22 rushes for 127 yards; 3 receptions for 10 yards

Defense

Anthony Barr: 3 games (3 starts), 17 tackles (league stats), 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 2 PBU

Harrison Smith: 4 games (4 starts), 20 tackles (league stats), 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 5 PBU

VIKINGS BIG DAYS VS. SAINTS

In his first season as the starter in Washington, Cousins recorded a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against New Orleans on Nov. 15, 2015. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 324 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-14 win. On Nov. 19, 2017, Cousins completed 20 of 32 passes for three touchdowns in a 34-31 loss.

Stefon Diggs caught seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints on Sept. 11, 2017. He totaled 10 receptions for 119 yards last season. Most famously, Diggs was on the receiving end of the 61-yard Minneapolis Miracle against the Saints in the playoffs on Jan. 14, 2018.

Adam Thielen totaled 157 yards on nine catches against New Orleans on Sept. 11, 2017. He also had 103 yards and a touchdown on seven catches last season.

Dalvin Cook made his NFL debut against New Orleans on Sept. 11, 2017. He rushed for 127 yards on 22 rushes.

Anthony Barr recorded 10 tackles, a sack and a PBU at New Orleans in his third professional game (Sept. 21, 2014). Barr intercepted Brees in the last playoff game between the teams.

Harrison Smith intercepted Drew Brees on Oct. 28, 2018. He also tied his career high with three PBUs at New Orleans on Sept. 21, 2014.

VIKINGS-SAINTS SERIES NOTES

1. This will be the fifth postseason meeting between the Vikings and Saints. Minnesota is 3-1 in playoff games against New Orleans.

2. In the only Wild Card game between the franchises, the Vikings defeated the Saints 44-10 in New Orleans. Anthony Carter returned a punt 84 yards to give Minnesota a 10-7 lead and start a 41-3 spree. He also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. Wade Wilson also completed touchdowns to Steve Jordan and Hassan Jones in the second quarter.

3. Every time the Vikings have played the Saints in the postseason, Minnesota has advanced to (thrice) or been in the NFC Championship (once).

Longest Vikings winning streak in series: 6 games (Sept. 27, 1970 through Sept. 12, 1976)

Longest Vikings losing streak in series: 4 games (Jan. 24, 2010 through Sept. 21, 2014)

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