EAGAN, Minn. — Hello, Love.
The Vikings (2-1) and Saints (1-2) are prepping for their Week 4 matchup in London that will be the first of five total International Series games during the 2022 NFL season.
Kickoff at sparkling Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. (CT), which is 2:30 p.m. in London.
Minnesota is 2-0 all-time in regular-season games in England with wins over Pittsburgh (2013) and Cleveland (2017) and also won the Global Cup exhibition against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983, the first American football game played on European soil.
New Orleans also won its two previous London Games, notching victories in 2008 over the Chargers and Dolphins in 2017.
Here is a predicted key matchup, along with five storylines for this week.
Matchup to watch: Vikings offense vs. Saints defense
The Vikings new offense has looked a bit different each week so far.
Minnesota was able to serve up completion after completion to Justin Jefferson against the Packers in Week 1. It was the kind of performance that draws extra attention from future opponents.
The entire offense stumbled through drops, a lack of getting the running game going and committing turnovers instead of scoring touchdowns in Week 2 at Philadelphia.
Last week, the running game got going, including in the red zone where Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison each made special scoring runs to balance out a four-touchdown day. The Vikings were able to capitalize on the attention paid to Jefferson and spread the ball around effectively against Detroit.
One aspect that has consistently left room for improvement is Minnesota's conversion rate on third downs. The Vikings have moved the chains 10 times out of 34 chances, a percentage of 29.4 that ranks 26th in the NFL. The Saints defense ranks seventh in the NFL, having allowed opponents to convert just 31.8 percent of the time (14 of 44 chances).
1. Travel and adjustments
The contrasts between the teams' approach to playing in London began at the start of the week.
New Orleans opted to leave directly from its Week 3 road game at Carolina and arrive Monday.
Minnesota opted to stay put after hosting Detroit and is scheduled to leave Thursday evening with an anticipated arrival of 8 a.m. or so in London, which would be 2 a.m. (Central Time).
Vikings Executive Director of Health and Performance Tyler Williams spoke with Twin Cities media members Wednesday to provide details of the Vikings process. Williams made four trips to London Games during his time with the Rams (two were full-week excursions and two were more like the schedule the Vikings are doing). Be sure to check out Williams’ insights as relayed by my colleagues Lindsey Young and Sam Thiel.
2. What's new in New Orleans
Vikings receiver and Louisiana native Justin Jefferson was 7 years old the last time Minnesota played a New Orleans team without Drew Brees at quarterback and Sean Payton as head coach (a 33-16 win by the Vikings on Sept. 25, 2005).
Minnesota Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was a sophomore at San Diego State when that one kicked off.
Brees and Payton were a combined 5-2 in regular-season contests against the Vikings but 1-2 in postseasons during their time together.
Now Dennis Allen is leading the Saints, and former Buccaneers No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston is the starting QB.
Winston has unleashed some big throws, as highlighted by Pete Bercich for Vikings Entertainment Network this week, but he also leads the NFL with five interceptions. He is 73-for-115 (63.5 completion percentage) for 858 yards with four touchdown passes and a passer rating of 79.5 on the season.
Winston did not practice Wednesday because of back and ankle injuries, but he said he expects to be back on the field Thursday and play Sunday.
Keep an eye out for rookie receiver Chris Olave, who leads the Saints with 17 catches for 268 yards (15.8 yards per reception). Olave has joined fellow former Ohio State WR Michael Thomas (16 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns) and Jarvis Landry (13 for 161) as the top threats. Thomas (foot) and Landry (ankle) did not participate Wednesday.
Look back on photos from past games between the Vikings and the Saints.
3. Banged up backfields
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is "day-to-day" with a shoulder injury he suffered Sunday against Detroit. The injury knocked Cook from the game.
He and fullback C.J. Ham (foot) did not participate in Wednesday's practice.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara (rib) was one of eight players listed as limited participants by New Orleans.
Kamara has rushed 24 times for 100 yards. Mark Ingram has added 19 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown for the Saints.
Cook leads Minnesota with 43 carries for 203 yards and a score; Alexander Mattison has added 17 rushes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
4. Synching the defense?
Minnesota's defense has allowed 413.3 yards per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL through three games and has prompted consternation among emailers to the Monday Morning Mailbag.
The Vikings, however, have been opportunistic at key spots, forcing turnovers and recording stops. The result is ranking tied for ninth in points against (18.3).
Minnesota has four takeaways on the season, which is tied for 12th. New Orleans has committed nine total giveaways, the most in the NFL this season.
The Saints have struggled at times with protection, allowing 11 sacks so far. Minnesota has recorded 7.0 sacks and allowed 4.0, for reference.
D.J. Wonnum and Za'Darius Smith are tied for the team lead with 2.0 sacks each. Smith did not participate Wednesday after suffering a knee injury late Sunday. The newcomer remained in the game to help finish off the Lions.
5. A game of momentum?
The last time the Vikings were more than one game above .500 in a season was at the end of 2019 when Minnesota went 10-6 and then upset the Saints in New Orleans in the Wild Card Round of the NFC Playoffs.
Thanks to rallying from two double-digit deficits against Detroit, Minnesota has an opportunity to open the season 3-1 and continue the momentum from Sunday.
It would reverse the past two seasons of starting 1-3 and playing from behind and be the best start since 2016 when Minnesota opened 5-0.
New Orleans of course wants to return to the win column. After edging Atlanta 27-26 in Week 1, the Saints fell to the Buccaneers and Panthers.