By the time the Vikings and Saints play Sunday night, much of the NFL’s Week 8 schedule will be over and done with.
But the highly-anticipated matchup between Minnesota and New Orleans will be worth the wait, as the meeting between division leaders and teams with championship aspirations is one of the weekend’s top games.
Mike Sando of ESPN.com recently chatted with a handful of people around the league about the primetime game on Sunday Night Football and found that there is plenty of buzz surrounding this one.
Sando wrote that while two of the three people he talked to picked the Vikings to win, there isn’t much separation between the Vikings (4-2-1) and Saints (5-1).
Sando noted that the two experts who picked a Minnesota victory pointed at each side of the ball as a reason why the Vikings could prevail at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Not that Saints fans will appreciate the reminder, but the Vikings' win probability stood below 3 percent before Minnesota completed the winning 61-yard touchdown pass against New Orleans in the playoffs last season. That 29-24 victory makes the Vikings 4-0-1 since the start of last season in games decided by five or fewer points (New Orleans is 4-2).
"I've got Minnesota for one reason, and it's the Minnesota receivers against the Saints' corners," one of the insiders said. "Minnesota does need to get healthy at the running back spot, but their receivers should be able to make the difference."
If the Saints disagreed, they might not have traded for cornerback Eli Apple this week.
"I think Minnesota is coming around, and they are doing just enough in the run game to keep things balanced," another insider said. "What I like about Minnesota is they have had some injuries on defense, and their young guys have done well. Holton Hill came in for Xavier Rhodes and did a heckuva job. The kid [Eric] Wilson from [the University of] Cincinnati came in [for Anthony Barr]. They have some depth. I just trust their defense more than I trust New Orleans' defense."
This will be the third meeting between Minnesota and New Orleans in less than 14 months. The Vikings won the 2017 season opener before squeaking past the Saints in a Divisional Round playoff game nine months ago.
DeFilippo listed among potential head coaching candidates
John DeFilippo has made an immediate impact in Minnesota as the Vikings Offensive Coordinator has helped design one of the league’s most creative offenses.
Minnesota ranks 13th in yards per game (380.4) and 14th in points per game (25.3), and the Vikings have scored at least 27 points in four of seven games.
Tom Pelissero of NFL.com recently wrote that DeFilippo’s success could make him an early candidate for a head coaching position in 2019 if one becomes available.
If Minnesota's offense keeps rolling, this might end up being the hottest name in this hiring cycle, period. DeFilippo, 40, is sharp, driven, detailed and a lifetime QB guy going back to his college playing days. He was Carson Wentz's position coach the past two seasons in Philadelphia. Now he's putting his stamp on Kirk Cousins, who's on pace to set career highs in passing yards (4,941) and touchdowns (32) in a new offense, and showing he can put the likes of undrafted receiver Adam Thielen in position to succeed week after week. DeFilippo interviewed with the 49ers after the 2015 season and the Cardinals and Bears this past year.
DeFilippo has never been an NFL head coach before. He was Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach for the past two seasons before joining the Vikings.