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Game Preview: Vikings vs. Saints

The Vikings (8-8 in 2016) open up their 57th season and fourth under head coach Mike Zimmer by hosting the New Orleans Saints (7-9 in 2016) on Monday Night Football. Former Vikings WR Randy Moss is set to be inducted in the team's Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony. Moss is second all-time in team history in receptions (587), receiving yards (9,316) and receiving touchdowns (92) and was named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010.

Zimmer's defense, which returns nearly every starter, has shown improvement each season he's been at the helm, ranking 14th in 2014 (344.7 yards allowed/game), 13th in 2015 (344.2) and 3rd in 2016 (314.9). The defensive group saw five players named to the Pro Bowl last season — LB Anthony Barr, DE Everson Griffen, DE Linval Joseph, CB Xavier Rhodes and S Harrison Smith — tied for the second-most in any single unit, offense or defense, in the NFL. Rhodes registered a breakout season with a career-best five INTs, the most by a Vikings CB since 2005 (Brian Williams). Third-year defenders — LB Eric Kendricks, who has led the team in tackles each of his first two seasons, and DE Danielle Hunter, who became the youngest player ever to lead the Vikings in sacks with 12.5 at age 22 in 2016 — look to take yet another step forward in 2017.

Behind a retooled offensive line, Vikings QB Sam Bradford looks to improve on his career highs from last season in completions (395), passing yards (3,877) and passer rating (99.3) while completing 71.6 percent of his passes, a new NFL record.

RB Dalvin Cook, who was selected with the Vikings top selection in the 2017 NFL Draft (41st overall) will make his NFL debut in Week 1 while sharing the backfield with veteran RBs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.

BROADCAST COVERAGE

NATIONAL TELEVISION: ESPN
Play-by-Play: Sean McDonough Analyst: Jon Gruden Sideline: Lisa Salters

NATIONAL RADIO: WESTWOOD ONE SPORTS Play-by-Play: Ian Eagle Analyst: Dan Fouts Sideline: Ross Tucker

LOCAL RADIO: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman – 4:30 p.m. CT

NORSEMAN NOTABLES

• Despite being sacked a career-high 37 times, Bradford had eight games with a passer rating over 100, setting a career high and tying him for the second-most in team history.

• WR Stefon Diggs (903), TE Kyle Rudolph (840) and WR Adam Thielen (967), became the 1st trio of Vikings to each record 800-plus receiving yards in the same season since 1981 when WR Ahmad Rashad, TE Joe Senser and WR Sammy White accomplished the feat.

• The Vikings defensive line combined for 34 sacks this season, the second-highest total in the NFL behind Carolina (36).

• The Vikings finished as the only team in the NFL to have three DEs with 7.0 sacks last season — Danielle Hunter (12.5), Everson Griffen (8.0) and Brian Robison (7.5).

• Danielle Hunter, who was the second-youngest player on the Vikings roster 2016, led all DEs in the NFL in sacks. Hunter enters 2017 with 18.5 sacks, the second-most among 2015 draft picks, trailing only Vic Beasley (19.5).

• TE Kyle Rudolph was third in the NFL in receptions among TEs with a career-high 83. Rudolph also ranked fourth among TEs in yards with 840 and tied for third in touchdowns with seven.

• The Vikings threw five INTs on 588 passing attempts (0.9 percent) in 2016, trailing only the Patriots, who threw two INTs on 550 passing attempts (0.4 percent).

• With exactly 100 tackles and 4.0 sacks, DT Linval Joseph became the fifth Vikings DT, and first since Henry Thomas in 1991, to have at least 100 tackles and 4.0 sacks in a single season.

• LB Eric Kendricks, who recorded 10 TFLs and 11 passes defensed last season, became the second Viking all-time and first LB in Vikings history to record at least 10 TFLs and 10 passes defensed in the same season, joining CB Antoine Winfeld, who had 11 TFLs and 13 passes defensed in 2012, as the only two players with that combination in a season in franchise history.

VIKINGS-SAINTS CONNECTIONS

• Saints RB Adrian Peterson played for the Vikings from 2007-2016. Peterson is the Vikings all-time leading rusher with 11,747 yards.

• Vikings DE Tom Johnson appeared in his first NFL action with the New Orleans Saints in 2011. Johnson played 3 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.

Local Connections

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

• Vikings DT Tom Johnson, T Rashod Hill and DT Dylan Bradley attended The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

• Vikings Strength & Conditioning Assistant Derik Keyes held the same title at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2011 and attended Lafayette (La.) High School.

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

College Connections

• Vikings CB Mackensie Alexander and S Jayron Kearse played with Saints LB Stephone Anthony at Clemson in 2014.

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

• Vikings QB Sam Bradford redshirted at Oklahoma University during the 2006 season while Saints RB Adrian Peterson played for the Sooners.

• 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 (Fla.) from 2013-16.

• Saints LB Manti Te'o attended the University of Notre Dame with Vikings S Harrison Smith (2009-11) and TE Kyle Rudolph (2009-10).

• Vikings RB Dalvin Cook was teammates with Saints CB P.J. Williams at Florida State in 2014.

• Vikings S Antone Exum, Jr., played with Saints WR Corey Fuller in 2011-12 at Virginia Tech.

• Saints OL Jack Allen attended Michigan State with Vikings CB Trae Waynes from 2012-14.

VIKINGS BIG DAYS VS. SAINTS

• 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.

• LB Emmanuel Lamur set 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.

• Vikings S Harrison Smith tied his career high with three passes defensed in the last matchup between the Vikings and Saints (9/21/14). Smith totaled eight tackles in the contest.

VIKINGS-SAINTS SERIES NOTES

• The Saints have played in Minnesota only once in the past 11 seasons.

• The Vikings have dominated the series while playing at home, collecting a 12-3 mark in Minnesota.

• The Saints have won the four past contests where every game has been played in New Orleans.

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

A WIN WOULD...

• Improve Mike Zimmer's record as a head coach to 27-22 and give him his first win against the Saints.

• Give Coach Zimmer a 3-1 record on opening days.

• Give the Vikings a 32-24-1 all-time record in the opening week of the season.

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