The NFL has now officially played on every single day of the week this season now that the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints are set to kick off on Friday on a Christmas Day special. While a majority of the schedule changes this season have been due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the reason this game is played on Friday is for a jollier reason: Christmas. These two NFC squads will go toe-to-toe as the rest of us enjoy the Christmas holiday with chestnuts roasting on the open fire (Do people actually do that?).
Both of these clubs are in the thick of the playoff race, albeit with the Saints having a much easier path. New Orleans has already clinched a playoff berth and a win over the Vikings on Christmas would leave an NFC South title under the tree. Meanwhile, the 6-8 Vikings need help and a lot of it. Along with winning out to bring them to 8-8 on the season, Minnesota would need the Cardinals to lose their remaining two games (49ers, Rams) and have the Bears lose to either the Jaguars or Packers. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.
In this space, we're going to dive into all the betting angles for this matchup. Along with the total and spread, we'll also give you some of our favorite player props and highlight how the lines have moved throughout the week leading up to this contest. All NFL odds via William Hill Sportsbook.
How to watch
Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans)
TV: FOX/NFLN | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Vikings (6-8) at Saints (10-4)
This spread opened at Saints -7.5 but dipped to make it an even touchdown advantage for New Orleans by Monday and has held firm at that number throughout the week.
Minnesota has won three of the past four matchups with the Saints, including the Minnesota Miracle in the Divisional Round in 2017. Last season, the Vikings beat the Saints, 26-20 as a 7.5-point road underdog in the Wild Card Round. More recently, however, the Vikings are 0-5 ATS in their past five contests, which is the longest active ATS losing streak in the NFL. As for the Saints, they are 7-7 ATS this season and are coming into Week 16 after a loss at the hands of the Chiefs. Drew Brees made his return to action after suffering a number of broken ribs and looked rusty to start, despite finishing with a respectable stat-line.
What this game likely comes down to is how well New Orleans can stop Dalvin Cook, who torched this defense for 130 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs last year. While the Saints have a reputation of being a stout defense, they haven't shown it over the last two games. Over that stretch, they are allowing 212.5 yards per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL. They are allowing 5.5 yards per carry and three touchdowns, too. Given the way Cook has been running the football the season, New Orleans' weak run defense, and Brees possibly being rusty, the Vikings will keep this game close enough to take the points.
For what it's worth, the NFL last played on Christmas in 2017 (two games) and both road teams covered.
Projected score: New Orleans 27, Minnesota 24
The total opened at 52 and has started to tick down as the game draws a bit closer. On Tuesday, there was an initial decline down to 51.5 and by Wednesday morning it dropped the full point from its opening number to 51. The Over is 18-9-1 between these two squads this season. In their previous 12 games against one another, the Over has hit eight times. This season, the Under has hit in five of the Saints' previous seven games while the Over 8-4 over Minnesota's previous 12 games.
Projected total: 51
Dalvin Cook total rushing yards: Over 82.5 (-115). As we explained above, the Saints run defense has not been strong over the past few weeks, which opens the door for Cook. The Vikings' back has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his previous five games.
Kirk Cousins total passing yards: Over 250.5 (-115). Dating back to week 10, Cousins has gone over this passing yards marker in all but one of his six games. Over that span, the Vikings quarterback is averaging 285.7 passing yards. While the Saints' secondary is strong, I expect Cousins to find some success through the air.
Drew Brees total passing yards: Under 252.5 (-115). This speaks more to Brees than it does the Vikings secondary. I'm not sure he's 100% healthy and it showed in that game against K.C. in Week 15. He'll manage to help New Orleans put up points, but I doubt it'll be a high-flying affair.
Alvin Kamara total receiving yards: Over 45.5 (-120). I don't expect Drew Brees to be uncorking his arm in this game mostly because he physically is unable to. That could lead to even more targets for Kamara and create more opportunities for him to go over his receiving yards total. In his five games with Brees before the QB went down due to injury, Kamara averaged 65.4 receiving yards. Last week, Brees targeted him six times and the back went for 40 yards. With t e rust off, expect even bigger numbers.
Justin Jefferson total receptions: Over 4.5 (-140). The Vikings rookie has hit this total in three of his previous four games and is averaging 11 targeted over that same stretch. He'll once again be a go-to target for Cousins.