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Vikings vs. Saints: 5 things you can count on

The Vikings will look for their fifth straight win against the Saints on Sunday afternoon.
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The Minnesota Vikings will look to keep their momentum going as they battle the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Vikings enter the game riding a four-game winning streak and sit in the final playoff spot in the NFC with a 5-4 record. Meanwhile, the Saints have won their last two games and lead the NFC South with a 5-4 record.

Sunday's game seems to be another unpredictable affair between the NFC rivals but here are five things you can count on.

1. Josh Dobbs making plays with his legs

Dobbs was one of the biggest stories in the NFL last week, coming off the bench to lead the Vikings to a 31-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. While a lot of the focus has been on whether Dobbs can continue to lead the passing game, it might be his legs that lead the Vikings to a win against the Saints.

The Saints' defense has struggled to contain quarterbacks, ranking third in the NFL with 243 rushing yards allowed to quarterbacks this season. They also have allowed five games where a quarterback has run for 30 yards or more in a list that includes Bryce Young, Baker Mayfield, Trevor Lawrence, Tyson Bagent and Jordan Love.'s Luke Johnson dove even deeper into the problem, with five of the eight runs of 20 yards or more that the Saints have allowed this season coming from quarterbacks. Even worse? 14 of 43 quarterback runs against the Saints have been for first downs and eight of those runs have come on third or fourth down.

Dobbs ranks second among quarterbacks this season with 324 rushing yards, and also made several key plays while running for 66 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. With the Saints' struggles, it might be wise for Kevin O'Connell to implement some designed runs to take advantage of their biggest weakness.

2. At least one more week for Justin Jefferson

The Vikings opened a 21-day practice window for Justin Jefferson this week and listed him as questionable on their final injury report as he works his way back from a hamstring injury, but it might be at least one more week before he returns to the field.

O'Connell expressed caution about Jefferson's injury during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show earlier this week and told reporters on Wednesday that it would be "a little aggressive" if Jefferson were to play against the Saints.

"I can tell you one thing Justin is so important, not only for every opportunity this season but for many, many more, hopefully, years to come as a Minnesota Viking," O'Connell told McAfee on Monday. "So we're going to make sure that we're ultra-sensitive to getting him back to 100-percent before he's out there," O'Connell continued. "And as well as he's done with his rehab, we still have to be smart and make sure we're looking out for Justin."

The Vikings have gone 4-0 since Jefferson suffered the injury in a Week 5 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs but have three winnable games ahead against the Saints, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. The Vikings could play an even more conservative approach by holding him out through the Week 13 bye and preparing him for a final stretch that includes a trip to Cincinnati and two games against the Detroit Lions.

3. Jordan Addison's biggest test

One of the reasons the Vikings have been able to play it safe with Jefferson is the emergence of Jordan Addison, but Addison will have his biggest test against Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo. 

Adebo won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award in Week 9 and is Pro Football Focus's No. 3 cornerback this season. But Addison is on pace to become the third rookie in Vikings history to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season along with Jefferson and Randy Moss, and double-digit touchdowns along with Moss and Sammy White.

Addison has also thrived in man coverage, averaging 1.79 yards per route run this season. PFF charts the Saints with a top-five man coverage rate this season and while Dobbs's performance in the passing game will be a factor, Addison should be able to have some success in a tough matchup.

4. More carries for Alexander Mattison

The Vikings' running game has been a disappointment this year but if it's going to pick up, it's going to be on the shoulders of Alexander Mattison.

Mattison is the last man standing in the Vikings backfield after Cam Akers suffered a torn Achilles in last week's victory over the Falcons. Although Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu are on the roster, neither has been able to chip into Mattison's workload as he remains the top back in the offense.

This has been a problem for the Vikings all season. Mattison's success rate, which Pro Football Reference defines as picking up at least 40% of yards on first down, 60% of yards on second down, and 100% of yards on third or fourth down. is among some of the worst in the league with only Jerome Ford (32.7%), Dameon Pierce (40.4%), Saquon Barkley (40.5%) and Breece Hall (41.5%) posting a lower clip than Mattison's 41.8 percent.

Mattison's 3.8 yards per carry is also a rough number as it would rank the third-lowest among Vikings starters in franchise history behind Chuck Foreman's 3.2 yards per carry in 1978 and Bill Brown's 3.6 yards per carry in 1966.

Unless Chandler or Nwangwu can make their way onto the field, it will be on Mattison to improve those numbers and revive the Vikings ground attack.

5. The Vikings' turnover problem resurfacing

The Vikings have been on a roll over the last month and the biggest reason may be their success in taking care of the ball.

Minnesota led the NFL with 11 turnovers in their first four games but have shown improvement with six turnovers in their last five games. While that's progress, the Vikings have also turned it over at least once in every game this season, which is a problem going up against the New Orleans defense.

The Saints are currently tied for the league lead with 18 turnovers this season and forced five turnovers in last week's victory against the Chicago Bears. Dennis Allen's defense has also forced 13 turnovers over the last five games while ranking fifth in turnover percentage and first in the league with 12 interceptions.

For as good as Dobbs's story is, he still ranks eighth among quarterbacks with a 4.4% turnover-worthy play rate according to Pro Football Focus and the Vikings as a team still rank third with a 17.2% turnover rate this season.

Taking care of the ball has been a major issue this season and it could come back to cost the Vikings against the Saints.

Prediction: Saints 23, Vikings 21