Big Sunday in Downtown Minneapolis
The Coach and Dr. Football
January 13, 2018
It’s the biggest Sunday of the 2017-18 season in downtown Minneapolis. At 3:40 CST at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings will play host to the New Orleans Saints in the 2018 Conference Championship semifinal.
The 13-3 Vikings worked hard all season – especially on defense – to put themselves in this situation and while it’s hard to imagine they could lose at home, the Saints provide a particularly difficult challenge. With the Super Bowl in this same stadium in three weeks, a defeat at the hands of the Saints would be devastating for the coaching staff, the players and the fans, a hearty bunch that have filled the big land crawler in downtown Minneapolis all season.
The Saints are tough. They just completed a three-game season sweep of the talented Carolina Panthers and they haven’t forgotten how the Vikings took them apart in Week 1. Of course, when these two teams met in September, Adrian Peterson was the Saints runningback. Since then, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have become a gifted one-two running punch to go along with Drew Brees’s dangerous passing game. This isn’t the same Saints team that the Vikings took apart four months ago.
However, while the Vikings offense has improved under the surprisingly talented Case Keenum, the defense is still the straw that stirs this drink. Featuring established stars such as Harrison (Harry the Hitman) Smith, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph and emerging future stars such as Anthony Barr, Trae Waynes and Eric Kendricks, the Vikings defense is the best in the NFL.
It’s going to be loud inside that big downtown boat this weekend and the Vikings are nearly unbeatable inside its large, friendly confines. Minnesota is favored by five, but the Saints won’t roll over.
This could be the game of the year.
Meanwhile, our fearless prognosticators have been on a planet of their own this year. The money keeps rolling in just as it did in the opening round of the playoffs last week. Dr. Football went 3-1 (181-79) on the money line and 1-3 (147-113) against the spread while The Coach went 2-2 (183-77) on the money line and 1-3 (147-113) against the spread.
It should be dandy weekend of football in this, the second week of the playoffs. Let’s take a closer look:
Atlanta Falcons (11-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Line: Falcons by 3
Let’s face it, Nick Foles just doesn’t have the skill set needed for the Eagles to move on. Atlanta, despite not having a home playoff game, wants to get back to the show.
Dr. Football: Take the Falcons to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Falcons to win and cover.
Tennessee Titans (10-7) at New England Patriots (13-3)
Line: Patriots by 13
The one thing that Tom Brady loves is proving the critics and gossipers wrong. The Titans are just lucky to still be playing. There will be peace in New England after this one.
Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.
EARLY SUNDAY AFTERNOON
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
Line: Steelers by 7
Jacksonville’s defense is tough, and they did beat the Steelers in Week 5, but that was a long time ago, and Big Ben and company are playing at a much higher level.
Dr. Football: Take the Steelers to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Steelers to win and cover.
LATE SUNDAY AFTERNOON
New Orleans Saints (12-5) at Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Line: Vikings by 5
Minnesota can taste it, but it won’t be easy. New Orleans is much better team than they were in Week 1, but so are the Vikings. Count on a great game from Case Keenum, the Rodney Dangerfield of pro football.
Dr. Football: Take the Vikings to win and cover.
The Coach: Take the Vikings to win and cover.