The Minnesota Vikings are looking to paint the town purple.
The upstart Vikings are two wins away from becoming the first franchise to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium.
Sunday’s game could be the toughest test. The New Orleans Saints don’t have quite the smothering defense of the Vikings, but they have a seasoned quarterback in Drew Brees and all sorts of offensive weapons.
This game pits head coaches Sean Payton of New Orleans and Mike Zimmer of the Vikings.
A dozen years ago, they were both assistant coaches for the Dallas Cowboys, with Payton overseeing the quarterbacks and Zimmer as defensive coordinator.
These franchises met in the 2009 NFC championship game, when the Saints beat the Brett Favre-led Vikings to advance to — and ultimately win — the Super Bowl.
The teams played in this season’s Monday night opener too, but both sides looked very different. It was Sam Bradford at quarterback for the Vikings, not Case Keenum, and Adrian Peterson (now in Arizona) was at running back for the Saints, who lost 29-19.
Bradford has been out since Oct. 9 but came off injured reserve Saturday.
Saints defensive end Cam Jordan isn’t conflicted about his allegiances, even though his father, Steve, is a former Vikings Pro Bowl tight end.
In fact, the younger Jordan doesn’t have a lot of memories about that time. He was 5 when his dad called it a career in 1994.
“My memories of that young childhood is sort of in and out,” Cam said. “I remember jumping in some leaves, getting so cold outside we got locked out of a car,” he added with a chuckle.
But he also fondly remembers meeting a number of “my dad’s co-workers, and they turned out to be legends.
“You grow up and you get drafted by the Saints,” Jordan added. “This is my team. This is my family. This is who I'm playing for.”
The mayors of New Orleans and Minneapolis have a wager on this game, as mayors often do. If the Vikings win, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will send a supply of king cakes, a traditional Mardi Gras confection.
If the Saints win, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey will send wild rice, a staple of the region.
Saints’ Coleman out
Saints receiver Brandon Coleman has not practiced this week because of a neck injury and has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Coleman caught four passes for 44 yards in last week’s playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers. Coleman had 23 catches during the regular season for 364 yards and three touchdowns.
Special teams regulars, linebacker Michael Mauti and quarterback Taysom Hill, are listed as questionable because of illness. They missed practices on Thursday and Friday.
1-4 — Saints’ postseason road record under coach Sean Payton, excluding their neutral-site Super Bowl victory.
13-3 — Minnesota’s all-time home record against the Saints.
0 — Postseason starts for Keenum, who will make his debut in the playoffs Sunday.
2 — Touchdown catches by Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs in a season-opening victory over New Orleans.
20 — Runs of 10-plus yards against the Vikings, who allowed the fewest since the 1995 San Francisco 49ers.
By the numbers
How the teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
New Orleans: 28.0 (4) Minnesota: 23.9 (10)
New Orleans: 20.4 (T10) Minnesota: 15.8 (1)
New Orleans: 261.8 (5) Minnesota: 234.6 (11)
New Orleans: 129.4 (5) Minnesota: 122.3 (7)
New Orleans: 224.8 (15) Minnesota: 192.4 (2)
New Orleans: 111.7 (16) Minnesota: 83.6 (2)
New Orleans: 42 (T7) Minnesota: 37 (T17)
New Orleans: 60.1 (T22) Minnesota: 59.3 (21)
New Orleans: +7 (T9) Minnesota: +5 (T12)
Both teams are not only capable of getting to the Super Bowl, but also winning it.
The Saints are more explosive than they showed in last Sunday’s victory over Carolina, and they will present problems even for Minnesota’s outstanding defense.
In the best matchup of the weekend, the Saints do just enough for an upset.