Adrian Peterson may have served as the face of the Minnesota Vikings’ franchise for the majority of his 10-year career, but the 2012 NFL MVP plans to show his now-former team that he has plenty left in the tank. Peterson brings his new club, the New Orleans Saints, into U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night for its season opener against the Vikings.
“Of course I want to stick it to them. I want to stick it to everyone we play,” the 32-year-old Peterson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “But going back to Minnesota, playing the Vikings? Yeah, I want to stick it to them.” That plan of attack likely will go through quarterback Drew Brees (NFL-best 5,208 passing yards in 2016), who looks to keep New Orleans’ top-ranked total offense (426.0 yards per game) in gear with second-year wideout Michael Thomas aiming to take the next step in the wake of the offseason departure of Brandin Cooks (New England). Minnesota boasted five Pro Bowl selections on its defense that ranked third in the league last season in yards allowed per game (314.9). “It makes it more interesting once he bounces it outside or catches the ball,” Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes told the newspaper. “You have that extra adrenaline, whatever you want to call it, if you can stop him so you can talk trash later on that day.”
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Vikings -3. O/U: 48
ABOUT THE SAINTS (2016: 8-8, 3RD PLACE IN NFC SOUTH): Long the centerpiece in Minnesota’s backfield, Peterson likely will take a complementary role with third-round rookie Alvin Kamara joining incumbent starter Mark Ingram, who is coming off career highs in rushing yards (1,043), scrimmage yards (1,362) and total touchdowns (10). While the offense rarely is an issue, New Orleans’ defense has languished near the bottom of the NFL for the last three seasons - including a 31st rank in points allowed in 2016. Cameron Jordan (team-leading 7.5 sacks) and linebacker Craig Robertson (club-best 114 tackles) made their marks last year and rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore is hoping to do the same with the NFL’s worst pass defense. “People think we’re still at the bottom of the barrel. ... I love proving people wrong anyway, so I‘m ready for it,” the 21-year-old said.
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (2016: 7-9, 3RD PLACE IN NFC NORTH): Sam Bradford benefited from a short-yardage passing game to set an NFL record for completion percentage last season, due in large part to the team’s inability to run the ball. Minnesota addressed its sputtering running game by selecting Florida State’s Dalvin Cook in the second round of the 2017 draft and acquiring Latavius Murray in the offseason, shortly after Peterson bolted to the Bayou. Stefon Diggs (team-leading 84 receptions) and Adam Thielen (career-high 967 receiving yards) serve as Bradford’s wideouts while Kyle Rudolph’s 83 catches in 2016 were the most by a tight end in franchise history.
1. Minnesota DE Danielle Hunter recorded 12.5 sacks, which ranked tied for third last season in the NFL.
2. New Orleans WR Willie Snead will serve the first contest of his three-game suspension following an offseason DWI arrest.
3. The Vikings enjoyed a plus-11 turnover ratio in 2016 while the Saints were minus-3.
PREDICTION: Saints 27, Vikings 21