Saints vs. Vikings: 6 Reasons Minnesota Can Pull off the Huge Upset

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IDecember 16, 2011

Saints vs. Vikings: 6 Reasons Minnesota Can Pull off the Huge Upset

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    The Minnesota Vikings have a very tough game slated for this weekend against the New Orleans Saints, but that doesn't mean there isn't any reason to suggest they won't win—in fact, I have five pretty good reasons why they could pull off the upset.

    Make no mistake, beating the Saints isn't a very easy thing to do. They're led by one of the best quarterbacks in the league, possess a solid corps of receivers and have a good ground attack as well.

    And that's the tip of the iceberg.

    So, how could the Vikings possibly defeat such a team? Let's find out.

The Pass Rush

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    The Saints have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but the Vikings have one of the best pass rushes in the league to counter with.

    Teams have tried to stop Minnesota all year and haven't been too successful, and Drew Brees has struggled at times against teams that are highly aggressive upfront and disrupt his rhythm.

    If the Vikings can slow Brees down with their pass rush—or, better yet, cause a few turnovers—this team will be on the right path to defeating the mighty Saints.

    But that's not all...

The Ground Assault

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    He's one of the best running backs in the league and the Vikings will have him back from his injury this weekend, which is great news for the Vikes.

    The Vikings' ability to run with Adrian Peterson is enough to slow any team down and afford the Vikings a clear edge, but they must use the ground game more than they have been this year.

    Controlling the clock through the ground game will keep that offense off the field and limit its ability to do long-term damage.

The Underestimation Factor

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    We've all seen it countless times before: The really good team underestimates the really bad team and loses right before the close of the season.

    The Vikings are a lot better than their horrid record suggests, and the Saints have been on a roll for over a month now, so it is conceivable to think the Saints may get complacent here.

    Complacency in football usually equals games lost.

Alternative Approaches

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    We already know the Vikings could conceivably control the clock with the ground game in an effort to help them win, but that same approach opens the door to alternative approaches.

    Whoever is back there throwing the ball, (Christian Ponder or Joe Webb) a heavy run-first approach is ideal for setting up play-action, deep route and even 10- to 15-yard under-shots to the TEs—essentially, the exact way this offense was designed to play.

    But running the offense by "design" will inevitably open other little doors to exploit, such as using a two-back system on passing downs, a little trickery and even a good old-fashioned option here and there.

    With a little luck and the right timing, the prior approaches could set the Vikings up with a few opportunities to use these alternative options.

Percy Harvin

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    Usually one man doesn't always beat a team, but this guy has been difficult to shut down this season.

    The problem teams are having with Harvin is the fact he can beat you as a RB, a WR or a return man, so it isn't as easy to simply "account" for him on the field.

    With the other factors applied, and a good usage of Harvin, this Vikings team does in fact have a chance, but there's one more reason—a plea on my behalf to Fred Pagac if he ever gets to read this...


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    Look, let's face it, the Vikings struggle heavily when they play man, especially when they play the better teams in the league, but they do far better in zone situations.

    Obviously, leaving one-on-one coverage on the outside when blitzing is a bit unavoidable, but throughout this game the Vikings could have a much better shot at beating this Saints team if they allow their covermen to occupy a portion of the field before turning it over to the next level guy.

    The other reason is simple: The Saints are a vertical passing team with a competent backfield that can also contribute in the passing game.

    The Vikings can't match up against vertical passing teams, especially on the outside. But playing out of zone—perhaps with a little Cover 2 mixed in—not only keeps the Saints' receivers in check, but also that backfield, while allowing the Vikings to mix things up defensively as the game goes on.

    That front four should be able to get to Brees, Mr. Pagac, so don't worry about that.

    Well, that's about it. Can you think of any reasons why this Vikings team could pull off the upset? Leave your idea below and get the debate going.