January 1, 2020 / 12:31 AM / 22 days ago

Wild-card Saints ready to defy odds in playoffs

(Reuters) - New Orleans cornerback Justin Hardee has a message for those who might think the Saints are doomed after failing to win a first round bye in the NFL playoffs.

FILE PHOTO: Dec 22, 2019; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis (56) talks in a team huddle before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

“We just gonna get it the harder way,” Hardee wrote on Twitter. “Our story gone be that much better.”

The Saints, with a sparkling 13-3 record and National Football Conference (NFC) South championship, missed out on a first round bye when the San Francisco 49ers stopped Seattle inches short of the goal line to win the NFC West title on Sunday.

That dropped the Saints into the wild card round where they will face the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) in New Orleans on Sunday.

And the odds grew longer.

Since the wild card system began in 1970, only two NFC wild card teams have won the Super Bowl - the 2007 New York Giants and the 2010 Green Bay Packers, according to http://www.profootballhof.com

The Saints are a touchdown favorite over the Vikings, but then the going gets tougher.

A win would send New Orleans to second-seeded Green Bay, who are 13-3 under quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The teams did not meet this season.

New Orleans, with quarterback Drew Brees adding the NFL all-time record for touchdown passes with 547 to his legendary career, enters Sunday’s contest on a three-game win streak

Minnesota, which has dropped its last two games, is led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has thrown for 26 touchdowns, and running back Dalvin Cook, who has 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing this season.

The teams did not face off during the 2019 regular season but have met three times in the past three years.

The Saints won 30-20 last season, and the Vikings won twice in 2017 - 29-19 in the regular season and 29-24 in the postseason. All three games were in Minneapolis.

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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