MINNESOTA (6-8) AT NEW ORLEANS (10-4)
TV: Ch. 5, NFL, 4:30 p.m. Friday
New Orleans by 7; O/U: 51
When Minnesota played at New Orleans in the wild-card round last season, the spread was similar and I remember writing that it was the one game where you couldn't convince me the underdog could cover, let alone win. Naturally, the Vikings scored a shocking 26-20 overtime win, adding to the Saints' playoff misfortune.
That was then. This is now. I just can't see how Minnesota will be competitive in this game (uh-oh, I'm doing it again).
Both teams enter on two-game skids after strong stretches -- New Orleans had won nine in a row and Minnesota five of six to get back in the playoff picture -- but the Saints still have an outside shot at the NFC's 1 seed and the Vikings, well, their season all but ended with last week's home loss to the Bears. It's always hard to figure out a team's motivation level (see: Jets-Rams as Exhibit A), but why would Minnesota be up to play a game on Christmas Day five days after a deflating loss like that?
For New Orleans, it's all right there for them: Forget the two-game losing streak and enter the playoffs on a two-game winning streak. Take care of business and then go home and celebrate with family. In a standalone game, expect Drew Brees and the offense, and a solid Saints defense, to remind the rest of the NFL it's still a serious contender in a rather ho-ho-ho-hum win.
The pick: New Orleans