Manti Te’o celebrates fumlbe recovery with team, Saints host Fa
Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com |The Times-Picayune
By Jeff Duncan
The Minnesota Vikings are the logical pick to win their NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. They are rested, healthy and playing at home, where they have been almost unbeatable this season. They dominated the Saints 29-19 at this same venue in Week 1 of the regular season. Their defense is the best in the NFL and they are motivated by fate and opportunity. If they can win two games, they’ll become the first team to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The Vikings are favored by 5 points for a reason.
But, for whatever reason, my gut says the Saints are going to win. On paper, the Vikings are the better team. But the more I studied this game the more I liked the Saints’ chances of pulling off the upset. This feels like a game where intangibles like confidence, experience and momentum will loom large.
Here are six reasons why I think they’ll win on Sunday:
Rich Barnes, AP
The officials will let them play
Referee Gene Steratore is one of the best officials in the business, a 15-year veteran who will not be swayed by the home crowd. Steratore’s crew ranked above the league average with an average of 14 penalties called per game, but that’s unusually high for him. Traditionally he allows teams to play, which is good for the Saints because of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s reliance on aggressive man-to-man press coverage. In the regular-season opener, Steratore’s crew called only 11 infractions, six on the Saints and five on the Vikings. Most important, he called just one defensive holding and two pass interference calls all game. As a rule, officials tend to be more lenient in the postseason, allowing teams to play more aggressively. If Steratore’s crew allows the Saints defensive backs to be “handsy” in coverage as expected, the Saints should be much more successful in…