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Minnesota vs. New Orleans NFL Preview: Week 1 Free Pick

Vikings vs Saints NFL Opening Night Week 1 NFL Gambling & Free Predictions

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Week 1: Vikings vs Saints Preview

Date/Time: Thursday, September 9, 8:30 p.m. ET

Venue: Louisiana Superdome
Minnesota vs New Orleans Lines
Moneyline: Vikings +180, Saints -220
CFB betting favorite: Saints -4.5
Over/Under: 48
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Minnesota Vikings

The optimistic bettor or Vikings fan will tell you 2009 left the Minnesota Vikings just one small step away from winning a Super Bowl. The pessimist will tell you last season was a tough act to follow. Who’s right?

Minnesota was a powerhouse last year, winning the NFC North and coming one Garrett Hartley field goal away from reaching the Super Bowl. Everything went right. They already had a dominant rushing attack led by Adrian Peterson and impregnable run defense led by Pat and Kevin Williams. But Jared Allen turned their pass rush into a huge plus and then there was that guy named Brett Favre.

Favre, written off the year prior with the Jets, had arguably his best season as a pro at age 40 last year, posting his best completion percentage (68.5), passer rating (107.2) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (33 to 7) of his career. He made Sidney Rice into a star receiver and helped shifty Percy Harvin win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

But can the Vikings repeat that banner effort this season? Favre is a year older. Harvin has struggled with migraines and Rice is out at least half the year with hip surgery. More importantly, the book may finally be out on Favre. In the NFC Championship game last year, New Orleans finally figured him out; they hit him again and again, not sacking him but bullying and rattling him all day. It threw him off and he wound up tossing a pick at a crucial moment.

New Orleans Saints

Speaking of tough act to follow, the Saints ride a Super Bowl title into the rowdy Louisiana Superdome on Tuesday night. Can lightning strike twice?

Unless you worry about the Madden cover, which features Drew Brees, the Saints have most of their key pieces back for 2010. Brees leads the NFL’s top offense and has a bushel of weapons at his disposal, including Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. Even a stout defense like Minnesota’s will have its hands full with these guys.

The Saints have passed the ball extremely well for years. The key to 2009’s success was their vaunted rushing attack and improved defense under co-ordinator Gregg Williams. New Orleans should run the ball effectively again with Thomas and Bush around, even if Mike Bell has left town. But can they repeat their defensive effort?

There’s evidence to suggest they won’t. They were extremely reliant on big plays last season, picking ofF 26 passes and scoring an absurd eight defensive touchdowns – twice as many as the next closest team. While they’ll still be a dangerous group of ball hawks with safety Darren Sharper back, last year’s showing looks a little fluky. The Saints also struggled at times to stop the run last season.

The pick:

Last year’s NFC Championship performance reminded me, interestingly enough, of Favre’s old trips to Minnesota when he was a Green Bay Packer. Favre often struggled playing in the hostile, raucous dome environment. Last season, Favre returned “home” to face the Saints and buckled under the noise and pressure.

I think the Saints will get to him again this Thursday night. They can replicate the conditions of last year’s matchup and they’ll surely do everything they can to hit him early and often again. Favre may also have some rust to work off as he tries to develop a rapport with newbie receiver Greg Camarillo and the struggling Bernard Berrian, both of whom will try to replace Rice.

While I see some bumps in the road ahead for New Orleans too, I think the Saints are more likely to pick up where they left off last season on Thursday night. Both teams will put points on the board but we should see a few mistakes too – likely on the Vikings’ side.

Minnesota vs. New Orleans Gambling Trends:

The total has gone OVER in 4 of Minnesota’s last 5 games when playing on the road against New Orleans
Minnesota is 13-5 SU in its last 18 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Minnesota’s last 5 games when playing New Orleans
Minnesota is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing New Orleans
The total has gone OVER in 5 of New Orleans’s last 5 games when playing MinnesotaNew Orleans is 16-3 SU in its last 19 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of New Orleans’s last 5 games when playing at home against Minnesota
New Orleans is 8-2 SU in its last 10 games at home

Vikings vs Saints prediction: Saints 28, Vikings 20

Moneyline: Saints -220
Spread: Saints -4.5
Over/Under: OVER 48

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