NFL Preview - Minnesota (1-1) at New Orleans (0-2) (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The week from hell for the scandal-stained Minnesota Vikings may ultimately seem like a picnic when they actually get to New Orleans to face a desperate 0-2 Saints team.
Despite their early-season struggles on the road, Sean Payton's Saints club figures to remain a dominant force as the host, having gone 8-0 in the regular season at the Superdome in 2013.
It's likely the Saints are champing at the bit to return to the cozy confines of the Bayou after dropping back-to-back road games to start the season, especially against a Vikings team reeling from the child-abuse scandal surrounding their best player, All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson.
Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf finally addressed the media regarding the Peterson allegations with a brief statement on Wednesday and the theme was consistent -- the team wanted to correct its mistake, which resulted in the star being placed on the NFL's exempt/commissioner's permission list
"We made a mistake and we want to make this right," said Wilf. "We embrace our role in the community and the responsibility that comes with it."
Peterson was deactivated for last Sunday's loss against New England after being indicted the prior week in his native Texas on allegations of child abuse, but he was reinstated by the team on Monday.
However, after backlash from sponsors, fans and even the Minnesota governor, the team reversed course again and in essence placed Peterson on administrative leave until the legal process plays out.
Wilf delivered his statement, but still left co-owner/president and brother Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and EVP of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren to take heat and answer the questions.
This was the first time that Zygi and Mark Wilf were behind the microphone since the news broke.
"We value our partners, sponsors and fans," said Mark Wilf. "We wanted to get it right and that's why we came to this decision."
"I think our actions will go a long way," he added. "It's never too late to get it right. It's important for everyone to move forward."
Peterson has been accused of using a wooden tree branch to hit his 4-year-old son as a disciplinary measure. He is said to be cooperating with police over the initial incident.
"People asked if we would cut him," said Spielman on Wednesday. "After reviewing everything we felt this was the best solution."
Warren added that this decision was made by the Vikings organization and then spoke with the league about the best way to implement its decision.
"We came up with what we thought was the best resolution for everyone," said Spielman.
On the field the Vikings were waxed by the Patriots without Peterson, 30-7, as Matt Cassel was picked off four times with New England scoring 17 points off the interceptions.
Cassel threw for 202 yards, 75 coming on the game's opening drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Matt Asiata, Peterson's replacement.
"No, it didn't affect the team. You know what affected the team? Throwing interceptions, getting a field goal blocked, not tackling well enough, having penalties on defense. That's what affected the team," Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer said when asked if Peterson and his issues were a distraction.
Meanwhile, the Saints' latest road hiccup was in Cleveland last week when Billy Cundiff's 29-yard field goal with three seconds remaining lifted the Browns to a stunning 26-24 upset win over New Orleans.
The Saints led for the bulk of the fourth quarter following Mark Ingram's 1- yard touchdown less than three minutes into the period.
After a series of punts both ways, the Browns took over at their own 4-yard line with 2:46 to play. Brian Hoyer converted two third downs with his arm to Miles Austin, and he found Gary Barnidge for 10 yards on 4th-and-6.
The biggest pass of the game, however, came three plays later, when Hoyer looked up top for a wide open Andrew Hawkins, who hauled in a 28-yard completion down to the Saints 11. Following a timeout, Cundiff calmly kicked his second field goal of the day to make Cleveland winners.
Drew Brees finished 27-for-40 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for New Orleans, which also lost to the Falcons in overtime on a Matt Bryant field goal during Week 1. Jimmy Graham caught 10 passes for 118 yards and both touchdowns.
"Now is not the time to worry. The season is still early," Ingram said. "We just have to get a sense of urgency and continue to improve."
The Vikings lead the all-time series by a 18-9 margin.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
For New Orleans to be a true Super Bowl contender like some think it is, the club is going to have to cure its road woes at some point but two setbacks by a total of five points doesn't mean it's time to jump off the bridge.
"Honestly, a loss is a loss," Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "I don't care what the points are. I feel like we played terribly these last two weeks and it doesn't feel like (the losses) have been by a combined five points."
The Saints are playing the perfect team to get things going back in the right direction. It's hard to imagine a focused Minnesota club with Peterson in tow putting up much of a struggle against the Saints because the matchups just don't favor the Vikings.
The Saints have averaged 35.1 points in their last 10 home games and Brees had a mind-numbing 73.6 percent completion rate and a 126.3 passer rating at the Superdome last season. He also has completed 76- of-107 passes for 846 yards with nine TDs and no picks in his last three starts against Minny, although that was against the team's old Tampa-2 philosophy.
Zimmer is a much more aggressive defensive mind but he has not been able to accrue the talent he needs yet to really amp things up. The Vikings don't have a difference maker on the edge as a pass rusher and their linebackers struggle in coverage so expect another big day from Graham.
One issue for the Saints could be the absence of Ingram, who is out with a broken hand. The former Alabama star has 143 rushing yards and is averaging 6.0 yards a carry so far.
Cassel, Minnesota's journeyman veteran QB, was exposed last week without Peterson in the backfield drawing attention and he must clean up his turnover issues and fast unless the pressure will mount to make the move to rookie Teddy Bridgewater, one of the team's first-round picks back in May.
"I'm going to hold the quarterback position just like every position here to the same standard," Zimmer said. "I also said I wasn't going to have a quick hook. Matt needs to play better. It's pretty obvious he needs to play better."
Peterson's replacement, Asiata, is a solid player with a sound and patient running style but he just doesn't have much explosiveness. If a play is blocked for six yards, Asiata will get you six yards while Peterson may have gotten you 60.
With that in mind Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner will try to get all-everything second-year star Cordarrelle Patterson, a wide receiver by trade, the ball in space as much as possible. Explosive rookie running back Jerick McKinnon will also have a bigger part in the game plan moving forward.
Only five NFL teams have started 0-3 and rebounded to make the playoffs and nobody has done it since 1998. That means the Saints will hit the field with a sense of urgency and that should spell doom for a Vikings team engulfed in so much off-the-field nonsense.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Saints 41, Vikings 13