Life without Adrian Peterson continues for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday when they travel to New Orleans to face the winless Saints. The Vikings' promising start to the season has given way to turmoil with their star running back suspended from team activities until his child abuse case is resolved. Peterson's absence is a break for the Saints, who at 0-2 are already are two games behind defending champion Carolina in the NFC South.
The Vikings are in a four-way tie in the NFC North, but the optimism that arose from a 34-6 season-opening rout of St. Louis was crushed by Peterson's off-field troubles and last week's 30-7 loss to New England. "It's Adrian Peterson; he's definitely an impact player," Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel told reporters after the loss to the Patriots. "At the same time, I don't think we can use that as an excuse for why we performed the way we did. … You're going to lose players and you have to learn how to close ranks and move forward." Minnesota has to do so in a tough environment as New Orleans has won eight straight at home.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -10. O/U: 49.
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (1-1): The gaping hole at running back wasn't the only problem Minnesota had against New England — the Vikings committed four turnovers and gave up six sacks. Third-year pro Matt Asiata, who rushed for 36 yards on 13 carries and caught a TD pass last week, will continue to get most of the work in place of Peterson. Minnesota's defense only gave up 292 total yards against New England and ranks seventh in the league (305 yards per game) but faced a short field for much of the game because of Cassel's four interceptions.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (0-2): New Orleans' two losses have come by a combined five points and the Saints have allowed fourth-quarter comebacks in both. They squandered a 13-point first-half lead in a 37-34 overtime loss at Atlanta and couldn't stop Cleveland from driving for a game-winning field goal in a 26-24 defeat last week. The defense's inability to get a late stop has overshadowed the offense's typically impressive numbers. Drew Brees has passed for 570 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions and tight end Jimmy Graham (18 catches, 200 yards, 2 TDs) continues to give defensive coordinators nightmares.
1. Saints RB Mark Ingram, the team's leading rusher with 143 yards and three TDs, is expected to miss about a month after having surgery on his fractured hand.
2. Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson has scored a touchdown in six of his past seven games, including three straight on the road.
3. Brees and Graham have hooked up for 43 TD passes, tied with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski for the fourth-most in NFL history for a quarterback/tight end duo.
PREDICTION: Saints 27, Vikings 13