The Minnesota Vikings have started the 2022 season with a 2-1 record and now head across the pond to play the New Orleans Saints at home on Sunday morning. Even though the Saints have somewhat been struggling this season, they still have a lot of weapons that could make them very dangerous if not taken seriously. Here are the top three keys to how the Vikings can get the W in week 4.
1. Continue Getting Others Besides Jefferson Involved
Justin Jefferson was held to little production the past two weeks. Jefferson will probably face another “slow” day as Marshon Lattimore will likely follow him all game. Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn will be going up against Bradley Roby and Justin Evans, both of whom they can take advantage of. Last week, Thielen caught six of eight targets for 61 yards and a touchdown, and Osborn caught five of 8 targets for 73 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
The receivers are going to have to step up if Dalvin Cook or Alex Mattison cannot get the run game going. Last week, Cook injured his shoulder on a fumble against the Lions. Until that point, he was averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scored a TD. It is looking like he will be playing. But if he is not able to go, Mattison will step in admirably even if he is not on the same exact level as Cook.
If Cook is on the sideline or the injury affects his play, the Saints defense will be able to load up on Jefferson even more. If Cook does play and isn’t hindered too much by the injury, he should have a field day. In the past three weeks, the Saints have allowed two 100-yard rushers and are allowing 139.3 rushing yards per game on 4.2 yards per carry. The Vikings enter the game averaging 104 yards per game on 4.9 yards per carry. If they can get going, this will allow any of the receivers to go off.
2. Continue to Protect the Egg
In the “Cobra Kai” episode, “Bad Eggs,” Chozen takes over training for the day and orders the students to line up. Having devised a new exercise based on an endangered species of bird, he instructs the students to each take an egg from the table and protect it at all costs. This is what the Vikings offensive line needs to continue to do. So far, they have been fairly good and have only allowed three sacks on Kirk Cousins. They will be up against a pass rush led by Cam Jordan who is the Saints best defensive player. There will be problems if he can disrupt Kirk enough.
The Saints defense has also shown improvement this season. In week 1, the Atlanta Falcons had 215 passing yards but did not allow a sack. In week 2, Tom Brady went for 188 yards through the air and was sacked once. Last week, the Saints got three sacks and limited the Carolina Panthers to 148 passing yards. However, they are still looking for their first interception of the season. But they have held opponents to fewer than 250 passing yards and one touchdown pass for nine straight games. They may be eager to get this first interception and if Kirk is pressured enough, he does get uneasy and will be more likely throw one.
3. Get back to the QB
Both Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter looked great in week 1 against the Packers. But they have been nowhere near the same the past two weeks. While both the Eagles and Lions have quality offensive lines, the skill that both Hunter and Smith are supposed to have should have been able to impact the QB more. Neither Andy Dalton nor Jameis Winston is known for their scrambling ability so the passing game will be more focused on. This puts pressure on a secondary that is already giving up a ton of easy completions. Through three weeks, opposing receivers have easily been finding holes. This week, they will have to defend rookie receiver Chris Olave, who was named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month after catching 17 passes for 268 yards.
Chris Olave elevated for the catch 😱pic.twitter.com/3AhXRh2aKN— Saints Nation (@SaintsNationCP) September 25, 2022
However, outside of him, the receivers have been injured or not producing. This Saints offense has only scored 24 points in its last two games. The Vikings secondary issues should not be as visible. If they are, Smith and Hunter have to make their presence felt Sunday and make things uncomfortable for the Saints quarterback. This will allow less time for Olave to pull off amazing numbers and help out the vulnerable secondary.