NFL Christmas Day Football: Saints/Vikings Preview

by Alec McMordie

A rare Christmas Day game in the NFL takes place between two NFC teams still alive in the playoff race.

New Orleans begins Week 16 of the season with a 10-4 record, which puts them one game ahead of Tampa Bay in the NFC South. A victory in this game clinches the division for the Saints. They are tied with Seattle for the second seed in the NFC, and they are one-game behind Green Bay for the top spot, which ensures home-field advantage and a bye in the first round of the playoffs. New Orleans does not own a potential tiebreaker with the Packers since Green Bay defeated them in September.

The Saints lost two games in a row after their 32-29 loss to Kansas City as a 2.5-point underdog last Sunday. New Orleans only gained 285 yards in that game, but their offense was only on the field for 18:46 minutes. They averaged 5.59 yards-per-play, which was just below their 5.6 yards-per-play season average. They gave up 411 yards to the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes on the field for over 41 minutes. The Saints’ defense held Kansas City to just 4.67 yards-per-play. That was below their 4.9 yards-per-play defensive average, which is the third-best in the league. New Orleans is also third in the NFL in total defense by giving up only 306.4 yards-per-game.

Drew Brees made his first start in five games on Sunday by completing 15 of 34 passes for 234 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Brees is completing 70.5% of his passes for 2430 yards in his ten games with 21 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.

Minnesota still has slim playoff hopes after losing their second straight game on Sunday in a 33-27 upset loss at home to Chicago as a 2.5-point favorite. With their 6-8 record, the Vikings are a game behind the Bears and two games behind Arizona, who currently occupy the final playoff spot in the NFC.

Kirk Cousins completed 24 of 35 passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. He is completing 67.6% of his passes for 3569 yards with 29 touchdown passes. But Cousins is also responsible for 18 turnovers, including 16 interceptions, which is second-most in the league.

The Vikings have been decimated by injuries, especially on defense. The linebacker position is particularly thin. Eric Kendricks and Troy Dye are out, with Todd Davis listed as doubtful for this game. Defensive end Jalyn Holmes, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Alexander Mattison are also out. Fullback C.J. Ham and defensive tackle Arman Watts are questionable. Minnesota has five players on Injured Reserve, including linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Danielle Hunter.

New Orleans has wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith and safety Marcus Williams, both out for this game on a short week. They have four players questionable with injuries: guard Andrus Peat; defensive tackle Malcom Brown; defensive end Trey Hendrickson, guard Nick Easton. The Saints have six players on Injured Reserve, including wide receiver Michael Thomas.

BookMaker lists New Orleans as a 7-point favorite with the total set at 51. Fox has the broadcast starting at 4:30 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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