By Christy Chauvin //@WhoDatWarriors
NFL Playoffs – NFC Divisional Round
The Minnesota Vikings offensive line may be a weak link the New Orleans Saints can exploit in Sunday’s Divisional playoff game.
The Vikings most recent game loss was on December 10 when they played the Carolina Panthers. The loss to the Panthers is notable because the offensive line had to be reshuffled, and the Vikings gave up a season-high six sacks to the Panthers, including a strip-sack that lead to a Panthers field goal.
During that game Vikings rookie, Danny Isidora played left guard. Rashod Hill struggled at left tackle. The Vikings were playing from behind and had to pass the ball to win. Vikings wide receiver, Adam Thielen, stated “We have to put those guys in better positions by starting fast and scoring early because then they don’t know if you’re going to run the ball or pass the ball. It’s complementary football,” Thielen added. “I think that’s why we haven’t [given up many] sacks this whole year because we’ve been able to score points and take pressure off those guys.”
The Vikings started seven different combinations during the regular season. Rookie center Pat Elflein is expected back. Elflein is no slouch having played for Ohio State, where he won the Rimington Trophy. Joe Berger is expected to play at right guard. Mike Remmers is expected to play right tackle.
Left guard Nick Easton is on injured reserve. Who will play left guard is a mystery. Joe Berger, typically the Vikings’ right guard, is capable of playing left guard. This would allow Remmers to move inside. Remmers said he would be willing to move again inside if necessary. “Some plays are a lot easier for a tackle and are really hard for a guard and vice versa,” Remmers explained. “So it’s just different. You know, I had to go in the playbook and double-check what the guard was doing on certain plays.” Struggling run blocker Rashod Hill may play at right tackle but that may bode well for Hill because he is deemed to be good in pass protection. Riley Reiff would play left tackle.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan beat out Remmers twice in September. Jordan and company will have many opportunities to concentrate on the offensive line now that the back half of the Saints defense has cleaned up.
Vikings Losses Affected by Offensive Line
Vikings losses this year were to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Carolina Panthers, and the series was split with the Detroit Lions–losing one each. Their quality wins were over the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, and Los Angeles Rams.
The loss to the Panthers was attributed to the poor offensive line play given injuries along the Vikings line. The loss to the Steelers was also attributed to poor offensive line play along with the Steelers ability to play with a lead and blitz a lot. They blitzed an awful lot. The Lions were more evenly matched against the Vikings. The play of the Lions was just enough to win against this Vikings divisional opponent.
The Saints played the Vikings. The Saints were able to move the ball the last time the Saints played the Vikings. If (IF) the Saints offense can score early and avoid penalties, there is a good chance the New Orleans defense can harass quarterback Case Keenum enough to carry the day. It may be a small cog in the larger wheel of what will determine the fate of these teams but it is definitely worth watching this game within the game.
Game plan surprises
Don’t be surprised if the Saints game plan is to use wide receivers Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman. If Sean Payton has been playing possum and saving something for the playoffs–expect him to “Sneak a Snead” and get his fullbacks involved as well.
#NOvsMIN #GeauxSaints #GoSaints
Talk Saints with Christy on Twitter @WhoDatWarriors