The NFL generally doesn’t do Christmas.
In total, just 21 games have been played on Christmas in NFL history, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With Christmas landing on a Friday this year, the NFL has bestowed the rare honor/burden of a Christmas game on the the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings.
The NFC foes that have staged more than their share of high-stake drama in recent seasons will renew their rivalry in a holiday game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Will Vikings play spoiler for Saints again?
For the Vikings, the game is a chance to play the thorn in the side of a Super Bowl hopeful Saints team yet again. The Vikings eliminated the Saints in dramatic fashion in a pair of playoff victories after the 2017 and 2019 regular seasons.
At 6-8, Minnesota is technically still alive in the NFC playoff race. The long shot of that reality means the Vikings are largely looking to spoil things once more, albeit with considerably lower stakes.
Saints eye home playoff games
The 10-4 Saints are safely in the playoff picture and fighting to maintain home-field advantage in the early rounds of the postseason. Catching the Green Bay Packers for the top seed and the only bye in the NFL’s new playoff format is a long shot.
The Saints are more realistically playing these last two weeks to lock up home field for the wild-card and divisional playoff rounds. They’re also hoping that quarterback Drew Brees can return to something that resembles form following a four-week layoff with 11 broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
Can Drew Brees bounce back in time for postseason?
He returned from that injury Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He can be forgiven if he didn’t look himself. Even amid an age 41 season that has seen his efficiency dwindle, Brees’ trademark accuracy has been on point to the tune of a completion rate better than 70 percent.
That wasn’t the case against Kansas City. Brees struggled to find his targets Sunday, completing 15 of 34 attempts in a 234-yard effort. That he managed to throw three touchdowns and keep the Saints within three points in the 32-29 loss is admirable.
The Saints will need better from Brees if they intend to make a deep playoff run. The good news for Brees and the Saints is they get to take on Minnesota’s 23-ranked defense. Facing a porous ground defense that gives up 125.6 rushing yards per game, the Saints could lean on running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray to carry the offensive load with their usual sprinkling of Taysom Hill under center.
The schedule makers did no favors for the Saints with the holiday game. If there’s anyone in the NFL who could use a full week to recuperate, it’s Brees and his battered 41-year-old body.
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