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NFL Expert Picks: Vikings Tabbed Underdogs Against Saints 

The No. 6-seed Vikings (10-6) will kick off the postseason with a Wild Card matchup against the No. 3-seed Saints (13-3) Sunday in New Orleans. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. (CT).

Let's see who the experts are picking:

Saints 36, Vikings 27 — Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

If this spicy meatball of a game is the biggest mismatch of the weekend on paper, it should be a satisfying Wild Card Weekend. While it's understandable that the Vikings embarrassing Monday night loss to the Packers has eclipsed the memory of their first 14 games, this remains a balanced Minnesota team. It's one of three teams that finished in the top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. The other two teams have home-field advantage.

For the Vikings to pull off a road upset, they will need the versions of wideout Adam Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook that we saw back in October. The Saints secondary has looked more vulnerable lately, and the Titans were the one team that recently exposed what should be a softer Saints front after losing starters Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins. The Vikings can pilot a similar path with a strong running game and explosive passing plays. Kirk Cousins is capable of keeping up in a shootout. It's happened before. Promise.

The bigger issue for Minnesota is what happens when New Orleans has the ball. The Saints have averaged 36.3 points in their last seven games. Their combination of unstoppable route combinations created by Sean Payton's playbook and Michael Thomas' ability to make contested catches is unparalleled. A year after losing a playoff game in the most excruciating way possible, the Saints enter this postseason at 13-3 looking a lot more like the 2009 Saints than last year's group did late in the 2018 campaign. That should result in another big total on Sunday and a lot of soul-searching in Minnesota about the efficacy of building around Mike Zimmer's defense.

Saints 31, Vikings 21 — John Breech, CBS Sports

I'm a fan of Kirk Cousins, and I'm glad that he finally turned into a good quarterback for the Vikings, but let's be real, who is picking them to beat the Saints in New Orleans? Drew Brees has been on a tear since breaking the record for most career touchdown passes. Over the past four games, he has completed 75.4 percent of his passes for an average of 297 yards per contest and has thrown 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. He of course has an incredible weapon in Michael Thomas, who set the single-season reception record this year, but the real story is the emergence of running back Alvin Kamara.

After recording just one rushing touchdown in the first 15 weeks of the season, Kamara has scored four in just the last two weeks. The Saints are going to need their Pro Bowl running back to be at his best if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs, and it's a big deal that he registered nice performances to close out the regular season. I think the Saints have a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year, and I'm going to take them to win by more than a touchdown on Sunday.

Saints 33, Vikings 23 — Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

This is a rematch of a classic playoff game two seasons ago, which was won by the Vikings on the Minneapolis Miracle. But this one is in New Orleans. The Saints are a much better team at home, and Drew Brees and the offense move it much better inside the Superdome. The Vikings have had defensive issues this season, and I think Brees will exploit those. Kirk Cousins, who has never won a playoff game, won't be able to keep up. Saints move on.

Saints 30, Vikings 21 — Tadd Haislop, Sporting News

The Vikings knew they would be in for a tough road trip in the Wild Card round no matter what happened in Week 17, and it came in the form of a Sunday afternoon game in the raucous Superdome against the hottest team in the NFL outside of Baltimore. Minnesota is one of the most well-rounded teams in the league, but New Orleans, boosted by the resurgence of Alvin Kamara to compliment the brilliance of Michael Thomas, has rediscovered its groove.

In an effort to control time of possession and keep the crowd level to a minimum, the Vikings will want to employ the Dalvin Cook-led zone rushing attack they spent the entire season sharpening. The problem is the Saints have the NFL's fourth best rush defense. If this becomes a duel between Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins, Minnesota will lose.

Saints 27, Vikings 17 — Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

The Vikings match up rather poorly with the Saints, thus the big number against them. The Saints stop the run well even with their defensive injuries up front, and the Vikings' offense is predicated on getting Dalvin Cook going to facilitate Kirk Cousins in the passing game. And we all are aware Cousins isn't known as a big-game QB.

The Vikings also can't stop Michael Thomas and the Saints receivers anywhere on the field with Drew Brees confidently and accurately spreading the ball. The speed of Alvin Kamara will cause problems for the Vikings linebackers. Marshon Lattimore will contain Stefon Diggs to make sure there's no Minneapolis Miracle in New Orleans, making this a Big Easy win for the home team.

Saints 24, Vikings 10 — Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk

This is the easiest pick of the weekend. The Saints are one of the league's elite teams — good enough that in most years they would have earned a bye week — and the Vikings just aren't on their level. I like the Saints not just to win this one, but to win by a couple of touchdowns.

Saints 27, Vikings 10 — Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk

It will take more than a miracle for the Vikings to upend one of the best teams in the league. Minnesota won't even have a chance without a potent running game that makes it easier to move the ball through the air. Even though Dalvin Cook is healthy, the Saints defensive front should be able to bottle him up, and in turn to make the Vikings offense one-dimensional. The Saints, who shouldn't even be playing in this round, advance to the next one easily.

Win Percentage: 66.3%, Average Score: Vikings 20.1, Saints 25.6 — FOX Sports

FiveThirtyEight's 2019 NFL forecast uses an Elo-based model to calculate each team's chances of advancing to the playoffs and winning Super Bowl LIV. Playoff probabilities are based on 20,000 simulations of the season and will update after each game.

Pre-game win probabilities: Vikings 23% — FiveThirtyEight.com

0 of 8 experts pick the Vikings, CBS Sports

0 of 10 experts pick the Vikings, SB Nation

1 of 5 experts pick the Vikings, MMQB Staff


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