The New Orleans Saints have absorbed heartbreaking losses in each of the past two postseasons but they will get a chance to avenge one of those defeats in NFC wild-card round. The third-seeded Saints, coming off their third consecutive NFC South title, will host the sixth-seeded Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon in a rematch of the "Minneapolis Miracle."
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A non-call on an obvious pass-interference penalty denied New Orleans a trip to the Super Bowl last season, which came one year after the Vikings shocked the Saints with a 61-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game in January 2018. "If anything, it adds a chip on our shoulders. It adds a little bit more of a determination factor," said defensive end Cam Jordan, who was wearing a cap that read Saints vs. everybody" while addressing the media. "You have to want it each and every time you take the field. You've only got so many opportunities." Minnesota, which was in the mix for the NFC North title until a loss to Green Bay in Week 16, is surrounded by constant reminders of the victory two years ago with images of the "Miracle" touchdown catch and run by Stefon Diggs adorning the team's facility. "We know. We know what's at stake," running back Dalvin Cook said, downplaying any motivation that the memory provides. "It's playoff football, we've got to go. If that can't get you going, I don't think a picture can do it."
TIME: 1:05 p.m. ET. TV: FOX. LINE: Saints -8 O/U: 50
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (10-6): Minnesota rested a number of starters in a meaningless loss to Chicago last week, but the biggest plus is the return of Cook, who rushed for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns before a shoulder injury shelved him for the final two games. Cook also had 53 receptions to finish second on the team to Diggs, who went over 1,000 yards for the second straight season and was one of three Vikings receivers with six touchdown receptions. Kirk Cousins finished with a career-high 107.4 passer rating after throwing for 26 touchdowns versus only six interceptions. Danielle Hunter racked up 14.5 sacks for a defense that ranked fifth in the league, allowing an average of 18.9 points.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (13-3): Drew Brees missed five games early in the season due to a thumb injury but he enters the playoffs on a roll, earning NFC's Offensive Player of the Month after a spectacular December in which he had 15 touchdown passes and zero picks while compiling a 137.0 passer rating. Wideout Michael Thomas is the top target for Brees after shattering the NFL single-season record with 149 catches, including nine games with at least 10. Running back Alvin Kamara's numbers were down across the board but he still rushed for nearly 800 yards and had 81 receptions for the third straight season. The Saints ranked fourth overall against the run, permitting 91.3 yards per game.
1. Brees had 15 touchdown passes versus three interceptions in his last six playoff games at home.
2. Diggs has at least 90 receiving yards and a touchdown in the last three versus New Orleans, including playoffs.
3. Saints TE Jared Cook has seven TD catches in his last seven games while Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph has five TD receptions in his last five on the road.
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Spence will spend the entire 2020 season on the Injured Reserve Non-Football Injury list due to a torn ACL.