The Minnesota Vikings (13-3) are hoping for a repeat performance from their 29-19 season-opening win over the New Orleans Saints (12-5) when the teams meet again in Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Earlier in the day, the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) will be looking to even the score with the Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) at Heinz Field after suffering a surprise 30-9 defeat in the first meeting back in Week 5.
Both the Vikings and Steelers are listed as nearly identical home favorites this time around as they try to move on to the conference championship round.
Pittsburgh closed as 7.5-point chalk against Jacksonville in the first meeting but saw quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throw a season-high five interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
Roethlisberger will obviously need to play much better in order for the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the second year in a row while their defense must find a way to hold Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette in check. Fournette rushed for a season-high 181 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns, including one on a 90-yard run with 1:47 left.
Jacksonville is a 7.5-point road underdog again at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com and will attempt to cover the spread for the 13th time in 18 meetings with Pittsburgh. The Jaguars failed to cover last week as 8.5-point home favorites in a 10-3 victory against the Buffalo Bills, falling to 0-3 against the spread in their last three.
Later Sunday, Minnesota goes for its second straight win over New Orleans as a 4-point betting favorite after losing the previous four games in the series. The first of the four consecutive losses to the Saints came in the 2010 NFC Championship Game when Brett Favre was the quarterback of the Vikings. Since then, Minnesota has seen three more players start under center (Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Sam Bradford), with Case Keenum set to become the fourth.
Keenum’s rise has been refreshing for the Vikings this year, although his counterpart Drew Brees is a future Hall of Famer for the Saints. Bradford was the starter in that Week 1 victory and threw for 346 yards with three touchdowns before later giving way to Keenum when he suffered a knee injury.
The good news for Minnesota is that the team has gone 9-2 ATS in its last 11 games overall behind Keenum, and New Orleans has lost six of its last seven road playoff games (2-5 ATS) dating back to 1991, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.