The New Orleans Saints are out to rid their playoff demons that has seen the team eliminated from the playoffs the past two seasons on flukes and the games final plays. There was a time, when Archie Manning was the quarterback in New Orleans, that the Saints considered their field haunted by spirits working against the home team.
Fan groups organized a number of spiritual ceremonies to chase away the evil spirits that seemed to bedevil the much loved home team. In their history, which began with New Orleans returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, the Saints have endured more disappointments than kids on Christmas not visited by Santa Claus.
Then, in 2009, the Saints revitalized the Big Easy in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and captured their franchise’s only Super Bowl win, a triumph over Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17. Since that glorious season, Saints fans have had a lot to cheer about. Their prize quarterback, Drew Brees, has treated Superdome crowds with exciting play after exciting play and more touchdown passes than any quarterback in National Football League history.
Yet, the past two seasons have ended with a thud.
Two years ago, New Orleans appeared assured of a victory in Minnesota, leading the Vikings with 25 second left on the clock and Minnesota at their own 20-yard line. Then, after a completion moved the ball out to the 39 yard line, Case Keenum hooked up with Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard miracle TD pass that sent the Vikings crowd into a victory complete with hysterics and the Saints home to begin preparation for 2018.
The Saints were at home for the NFC Championship Game last January, and appeared destined for a win that would have sent them to Super Bowl LIII with a late drive in a game that was tied. Then, in a play that prompted the NFL to add pass interference to the reviewable category, a clear pass interference was not called and New Orleans kicked a go-ahead field goal with time still on the clock that allowed the Los Angeles Rams to tie the contest late and win it in overtime.
On Sunday, the Saints get an opportunity to expel recent demons when they get both a revenge against recent postseason results and the team that stung them with that miracle pass two years ago, when they host Kurt Cousins and his Vikings.
Quarterback Cousins was supposed to be the final piece in the Vikings quest for a first ever franchise Super Bowl win. They haven’t participated in a Super Bowl since the 1976 season, which resulted in their fourth loss in NFL’s biggest game, that year to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI.
The Vikings have had some great teams since then, and just missed a couple more trips to the Super Bowl. In 1998, they set an all-time scoring record and only needed a makeable field goal to clinch the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons. Then, Gary Anderson, who had not missed a kick all season, botched a 38-yard attempt that would have pushed the Vikings lead to 10 points. Instead, the Atlanta Falcons scored a late touchdown to push the game to overtime, won the contest in the extra period, and then two weeks later lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII, a game that proved to be John Elway’s last career start.
In 2009, the Saints downed the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game in another overtime contest, in Brett Favre’s first season with the Vikings.
So, we’ve got history here between these two teams that meet on Sunday in New Orleans. And the Vikings bring with them a quarterback that beats winning teams as often as the Cleveland Browns are mentioned among the NFL best.
As a member of the Washington Redskins, the knock on Cousins was he couldn’t beat quality opponents. He won only 5 of 27 matchups against teams with winning records. In Minnesota, it was thought the Vikings put a much better team around him and he could reverse that record. In fact, it has gotten worse.
In two seasons with the Vikings, Cousins has only once beat a team with a winning record, and that was the Dallas Cowboys … who didn’t finish the campaign with a winning mark. Against opponents that won 12 regular season games, Cousin’s record is even worse. He is 0-15 against those quality teams.
So, we’ve got in New Orleans the better team at home with revenge against an opponent that has not proven to be good enough to win with Cousins in these situations.
To combat the numerous edges for the Saints, the books put a number on this game too high to inspire confidence in the favorite. The line pushed the wise guys to the underdog Vikings, while I think the more judicious price to pay is the huge number and collect on the favorite wager.
Qoxhi Picks: New Orleans Saints (-7½) over the Minnesota Vikings