When: Sunday, Jan. 14, 4:40 p.m. ET
Where: United Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota
The NFC Divisional Round
They say defense wins championships. But does it really?
The Minnesota Vikings certainly hope so. Coach Mike Zimmer and the NFL’s top-rated defense quietly produced a 13-3 regular season, the franchise’s best record since going 15-1 in 1998.
But perhaps the Vikings’ more impressive feat was transforming third-string quarterback Case Keenum into an above-average NFL starter while simultaneously dealing with rookie superstar Dalvin Cook’s season-ending ACL tear.
Keenum still boasts a strong supporting cast, complete with the lightning-quick Stefon Diggs, primary deep threat Adam Thielen, and red-zone target Kyle Rudolph.
But few teams in the NFL know offense quite like Coach Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints rated second in the league in total offense, which is nothing new for the team that’s finished top five in that category every season since 2010.
Somehow, New Orleans made that offense more dangerous this season with the addition of rookie sensation Alvin Kamara at running back, who finished second on the team in rushing and receiving. While Minnesota will have plenty of film on Kamara, his emergence came after the Vikings defeated the Saints 29-19 in Minneapolis in Week One.
Don’t put stock in that game. We already mentioned Cook’s injury, but Minnesota also started the oft-injured Sam Bradford at quarterback and New Orleans’ leading rusher was former Viking Adrian Peterson, who the Saints traded to the Arizona Cardinals midway through the season.
So what will factor into this divisional round contest?
Minnesota’s X-Factor: Case Keenum
This is the obvious choice, but that doesn’t make Keenum’s performance any less important. For the most part, we know what to expect from Minnesota’s defense and New Orleans’ offense. But Brees will be making his 12th playoff start—Keenum makes his first. The Saints’ defense finished in the top 10 of the NFL in sacks and third in interceptions, ranking above the Vikings in both categories.
New Orleans knows how to force quarterbacks into mistakes. That will surely be their strategy with the inexperienced Keenum. Brees and the offense will punish any and all miscues.
New Orleans’ X-Factor: United Bank Stadium
Seriously. This comes down to one thing—the Vikings play in a dome. As do the Saints.
There’s always talk about whether teams that play in a dome can handle the wintry elements often encountered in the playoffs. That may or may not be true, but it certainly can’t hurt New Orleans, a team notoriously good at winning home games in the Superdome, to avoid the bitterly cold Minneapolis weather.
That high-powered Saints offense runs the ball well, but it truly thrives when Brees and his receivers can connect at will. Playing indoors doesn’t give the Saints an advantage—they’re still on the road in a tough environment. But it’s much better than facing a team in a place like Philadelphia, New York, or Green Bay.
How To Watch
The game is on FOX but that doesn’t mean that you need a cable subscription to watch it. Here are some services that will allow you to stream the game over the internet.
DirecTV NOW offers FOX as a part of all of their packages, including the base “Live A Little” package. This has over 60 channels for a price of $35/month with the option to add movie channels for an additional $5 to $8 per month.
If you want to sample it before subscribing, they offer a FREE TRIAL.
Sling TV does have one big drawback in terms of allowing you to stream in that the FOX network is not available in all locations. So, before deciding that Sling TV is the way to go when it comes to streaming the event, make sure that you live in an area that provides the network.
If you do, simply go to the Sling WEBSITE. When prompted to choose your preferred channel package, make sure that said package includes Fox. After this, just finish following the on-screen prompts and you will be ready to go!
“Access” package $39.99/month 5-Day Free Trial. You get over 45 channels including NBC. In addition to this you can add the Sports Pack at an extra $10/month.
However, make sure that FOX is available in your market. If it is, then you will be able to get a free trial of the service to watch the game live on your PlayStation console or compatible device.
YouTube TV includes FOX in addition to over 50 other channels for $35/month. You also get other major networks ABC, NBC, and CBS, plus more. You also get 5 ESPN channels, 3 FOX Sports Channels, and CBS Sports. If you love sports, this might be the service for you.
Hulu With Live TV
Hulu With Live TV costs $39.99/month for over 50 channels including network stations like NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX. You also get access to the full Hulu on demand library. They offer a free trial if this sounds like the streaming service for you.
Remember, the game kicks off Sunday, Jan. 14, 4:40 p.m. ET.