Saints dispatch Vikings to set up huge matchup next week vs. 8-0 Rams

The Los Angeles Rams are 8-0. A week from now, they could be heading back to Los Angeles as the second-best team in the NFC.

The New Orleans Saints are on quite a roll, and some huge defensive plays on Sunday night allowed them to exorcise playoff demons and get a big 30-20 road win over the Minnesota Vikings. That sets up next week’s showdown against the undefeated Rams.

The Rams being the favorite to win the Super Bowl has been an accepted fact since very early this season. The Saints can change that with one home win. Rams-Saints might be the best regular-season matchup in the NFL this season, and it’s going to go a long way in shaping the NFC playoff picture. With a win next Sunday the Saints would be 7-1 and still a half-game behind the 8-1 Rams, but they’d hold the tiebreaker due to the head-to-head win.

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New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams returns an interception 45 yards for a touchdown against the Vikings. (AP)
New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams returns an interception 45 yards for a touchdown against the Vikings. (AP)

And after the Saints soundly beat the Vikings, they look like the type of team that might hand the Rams their first loss, especially with the game coming in New Orleans.

Saints defense carries the day

The Saints won in a different way Sunday. The Saints usually rely on their offense, which was fine but not great on Sunday. Drew Brees had just 120 passing yards. Two enormous defensive plays turned the game around.

The Vikings were up 13-10 late in the first half and driving to score. Then Adam Thielen, who has been the NFL’s best receiver this season, had the ball knocked loose. A long fumble return by New Orleans and a stupid penalty on Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell (who had a key fourth-down drop later) for firing his helmet to the ground set up a touchdown by Alvin Kamara. That was a huge swing in the game.

The Saints were holding a 20-13 lead when the defense made an even bigger play. Stefon Diggs seemed to stop on a crossing route, Kirk Cousins couldn’t adjust quickly enough and threw a pass right to cornerback P.J. Williams who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown. A team as good as the Saints wasn’t going to give away a 14-point lead.

If New Orleans’ defense can create a few big plays each game, the offense led by the great Brees is championship caliber. That’s the formula the Saints used to win their first Super Bowl at the end of the 2009 season.

Saints-Rams is one of the NFL’s best matchups

The Saints started the season slowly. They were upset at home in Week 1 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and probably should have lost at home in Week 2 to the Cleveland Browns. But they pulled out the Browns game because of Cleveland’s kicking issues and they haven’t looked back. The Saints haven’t lost since Week 1.

The last time the Saints went to Minnesota, they looked like a team that could win a Super Bowl. They had a playoff win seemingly wrapped up and looked to be going to the NFC championship game, but we all remember the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

The Saints will feel much better flying home from Minneapolis this time. They have played like one of the NFL’s best teams for a few weeks, and their win at the Vikings was another impressive step. They’re one home win against the Rams next week from being in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the NFC.

Rams-Saints should be one of the NFL’s best games this season. For the Saints, it’s a chance for a big statement.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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