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Matchup Issue Looms for Vikings

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January 5, 2020

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The Vikings certainly have reason to be concerned about their pass defense entering today’s playoff game at New Orleans against the high scoring Saints. Minnesota’s secondary was a worry during the regular season, and then Friday it was announced cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes won’t play against the Saints.

Even before that announcement, former Vikings linebacker and front office executive Scott Studwell told Sports Headliners of his concern about containing legendary Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas who led the NFL in receptions with 149, and receiving yards, 1,725.

“Thomas has had a phenomenal year and Brees is obviously a Hall of Fame quarterback, that’s a first ballot guy,” Studwell said. “They’ve been putting up a lot of points the last five or six weeks (averaging 36.6 points in the last six games). …

“I don’t know if we have a corner on the roster, to be honest with you, that can matchup with that kid (the 26-year-old Thomas). I am not quite sure what the (Vikings) coaching staff is going to do but they’re going to have somebody over the top (of the defense). He’s going to get his catches but you just can’t let him beat you.”

Vikings veteran Xavier Rhodes is paid to be a shutdown cornerback but has been inconsistent this season and last. He was asked if he will be assigned a lot to covering the aggressive Thomas. “I don’t know if I will be on him,” he said. “It’d be great if I am.”

Is Rhodes forthcoming with that answer? “I really don’t know,” he said. “I will find out when you find out (when game begins).”

Studwell refers to the Vikings as a “contender” in the mix of six NFC teams trying to earn their way to Miami and playing in next month’s Super Bowl. “These guys are good enough to beat anybody in the league but they also have to play well,” he said.

As the NFC’s No. 3 seed, the Saints are a favorite of odds-makers to play in the Super Bowl. The AFC’s No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens are favored to win the big game.

Worth Noting

Kirk Cousins

Studwell talking about quarterback Kirk Cousins who finished the regular season with a 107.4 passer rating, the second highest in franchise history: “I think Cousins had a hell of a year. He started out a little slow and didn’t end real well…two weeks ago (against Green Bay).”

Since 2009, only the New England Patriots (135) have won more regular season games than the Saints, 113. The Saints’ Sean Payton and Drew Brees are the second winningest head coach-starting quarterback combo of all-time in the NFL. Their 126 wins are exceeded only by the Patriots’ Bill BelichickTom Brady twosome with 220 wins.

Vikings offensive alumni with the Saints: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, center Nick Easton, and running back Latavius Murray are second-teamers, while fullback Zach Line, who has been a starter, is out today because of a knee injury.

Marcus Sherels, the 32-year-old cornerback the Vikings added to the roster late last week, told Sports Headliners when his NFL career ends he plans to attend law school. He prefers admission to a school in Minnesota and wants to focus on intellectual property law.

As a No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs, the Vikings aren’t eligible to host any home games and that costs the franchise an estimated $3 million to $4 million, a sports industry source told Sports Headliners.

D1ticker.com points out coach P.J. Fleck receives a $50,000 bonus for Minnesota’s Outback Bowl win, per his contract.

Eric Musselman, the first-year Arkansas basketball coach who was rumored to be interested in the Gopher job while at Nevada, is off to a 12-1 start with the Razorbacks including a win at Indiana.

The Gophers, 1-2 in Big Ten games and at home tonight against Northwestern, might have won Thursday’s double overtime matchup with Purdue if Minnesota’s Marcus Carr, one of the conference’s best point guards, had adhered to fundamental basketball and passed out of double teams rather than trying to dribble through them.

Sammy Presthus, the grandson of former Gopher basketball captain Paul Presthus, is a sophomore starting point guard for Edina. He has been on both the basketball and soccer varsities since his freshman year.

The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that football had a 9.6 percent drop in participation comparing school years 2008-2009 to 2018-2019. Boys cross country participation was up 16.4 and track & field 8.5. With over 1 million participants, football had far more participants than any other sport.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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