The Vikings must establish a running game against the Saints.
Daunte Culpepper is coming off two games in which he played horribly; and last week, you couldn’t blame the offensive line on his play. The line played far better against the Bengals than they did against the Bucs in the season opener, creating holes for Micheal Bennett and providing time for Culpepper. But Bennett fumbled twice and Culpepper looked antsy in the pocket, forcing throws he should have simply tossed away.
The Saints are weak up the middle. If the Vikings can exploit that weakness and pound out an inside rush, it will help in several areas. It will control the clock and help keep the defense off the field, which has been a major problem the past two weeks. A solid run game will help to calm Culpepper and should help slow down the Saints pass rush, providing Pep time to pass. It will create a credible play-action pass. With Nate Burleson out, Jermaine Wiggins and Travis Taylor will be Culpepper’s primary receivers.
On defense, I think the Vikes will have better day. Sam Cowart returns, perhaps not fully healthy, but his experience will be needed. Last week, the Vikings paid dearly with second year player Rod Davis subbing for Cowart. Davis was out of position on the second play of the game and getting him into position distracted Darren Sharper enough that he missed a coverage call, resulting in a 70 yard touchdown bomb to Chad Johnson.
The Vikings won’t have OLB E.J. Henderson on the field but Dontarrious Thomas is a decent replacement and we shouldn’t want for speed with him in there. But with Shaper sitting, look for Aaron Brooks to pick on Willie Offord. The offensive line should be able to contain Deuce Macallister, who is averaging less than three yards per carry. If they can do that, the line must get pressure on Brooks or it will be a long day.
The Saints are coming off a loss to the Giants, so they’ll be motivated to reverse course but the Vikings are 0-2 and they face the Falcons next week. If they don’t win today, they’ll likely have a 0-5 start to the season.