If the New Orleans Saints want to get some redemption for the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’, they’ll have to do what they couldn’t at the very end of their nightmare playoff loss.
Stopping the Minnesota Vikings’ passing attack – specifically wide receiver duo Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs – will be of utmost importance for the Saints in a battle featuring two of the NFC’s heavyweights.
Diggs is the man who stuck the dagger into New Orleans’ heart in the Divisional Round contest, but it will be Thielen who commands the most attention on Sunday night.
The 28-year-old has been the best receiver in the league this season, leading all players in receptions (67) and receiving yards (822) while eclipsing the century mark in yards in all seven games.
The Saints secondary has been much better over the past three weeks after a disastrous start to the season, but they’ve still been susceptible, allowing the second-best passer rating in the league at 112.2.
That’s why New Orleans went out this past week and traded for cornerback Eli Apple from the New York Giants in an effort to shore up their pass defence. Apple has yet to allow a touchdown this season, but it’s unclear how much he’ll be on the field after just joining the team.
The Vikings, meanwhile, are expected to have Everson Griffen back after the defensive end was away from the team the past five weeks, which will strengthen a Minnesota defence that is starting to look like itself.
Regardless of the result on Sunday, it may not be the last time these two teams get together this season.
Here are more talking points in Week 8.
RESTED AND READY
If there’s any player in the league capable of putting the first blemish on the Los Angeles Rams’ undefeated record, it’s Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers and the Packers offence haven’t been at their best this season, but coming off a bye week, Green Bay are a dangerous underdog for the Rams. Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy are 9-2 together coming off the bye, and the week off will have given the star quarterback more time to heal the knee injury suffered in Week 1.
The key against a lethal Rams pass rush will be keeping Rodgers upright, which Green Bay have managed to do for the most part this season. The Packers offensive line ranks first in pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus at 91.2, while allowing just 59 pressures on 296 pass-blocking snaps.
They’ll need to be on top of their game against Aaron Donald, who is coming off his best performance of the year in which he notched four sacks and two stuffs in an absolute domination of the San Francisco 49ers.
BECKHAM v NORMAN, ROUND FOUR
As far as individual match-ups go, it doesn’t get more contentious than the one featuring Odell Beckham Jr and Josh Norman.
The NFL was robbed of two encounters between the New York Giants wide receiver and the Washington cornerback last season when Beckham was injured, but Sunday will mark the third time the two line-up against one another since they fought on the field in 2015.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them involved in more heated exchanges this week, especially with Norman using his trash talk to get in Beckham’s head.