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New Orleans Saints have some history to lean on in preparation for Wild Card game against Minnesota

Teams played three times in 25-game stretch during 2017-18 seasons

A second game action gallery from the New Orleans Saints' win over the Carolina Panthers in week 17 of the 2019 NFL season.

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New Orleans Saints

There's some history there.

The New Orleans Saints' knowledge of the Minnesota Vikings might not be as vast as it was in 2017-18, when the teams played three times in a 25-game stretch, all in Minnesota's U.S. Bank Stadium and including the postseason – a 29-24 Vikings victory in the NFC Divisional playoff round.

But there's some familiarity there, even with the changes the two teams have undergone since last they played, a 30-20 Saints victory at U.S. Bank on Oct. 28, 2018. And that familiarity will be on display Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, when the Saints (13-3) play the Vikings (10-6) in an NFC Wild Card game at 12:05 p.m.

"We know this, we know there are some similarities in their structure defensively," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "Zim (Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer) has been there that whole time and is actively involved in what they do defensively.

"I'm sure there's some nuances offensively. I felt they rushed the ball real well this year. So there's all the tape from this season, last season, go back as far as you want to and a lot of it is just a matter of the plan that you're putting in place for this game. But it does feel like a team we've played pretty regularly."

This season, the Vikings had the NFL's No. 16 total offense (353.5 yards per game). Minnesota was 23rd overall in passing offense (220.2 yards per game) but was sixth in rushing (133.3 yards per game), and has a handful of offensive weapons with whom New Orleans has experience playing.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins (307 of 444 for 3,603 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, with six interceptions) played in the last meeting between the teams. And running back Dalvin Cook (250 carries for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns, in 14 games) played against New Orleans in the '17 game.

But receivers Stefon Diggs (63 catches, 1,130 yards and six touchdowns) and Adam Thielen (30-418-6 in 10 games) played in all three. And Diggs and Thielen produced noticeable numbers: Diggs caught 23 passes for 349 yards and 4 touchdowns (including six for 137 and the walk-off touchdown in the playoff game), and Thielen caught 22 passes for 334 yards and a score.

"I haven't seen any of their tape, I haven't seen what they've necessarily done the same or differently from years past," linebacker A.J. Klein said. "But you can assume that there are going to be some things are the same – obviously personnel, we know the play-makers on their team."

New Orleans is aware of the play-makers on defense, too.

Minnesota allowed 18.9 points (tied for fifth fewest) and 341.6 yards per game (14th) during the regular season. The Vikings didn't give up much against the run (108 yards per game) or pass (233.6 yards, with 17 interceptions balancing 23 touchdown passes allowed). And defensive ends Danielle Hunter (14.5 sacks, fourth-most in the league) and Everson Griffin (eight sacks) are a formidable bookend.

"Up front, we have some experience against them," Saints right tackle Ryan Ramczyk said. "We kind of know our matchups. Obviously, we're studying them and seeing what they've been doing this year differently from the past. But I think it is beneficial to have played this team before and kind of know their tendencies, know kind of how they're going to play this game."

The Saints know a good bit about the entirety of the situation, given that this is their third consecutive playoff appearance, and each has begun with a home playoff game.

"We're excited about it," Payton said. "I like that we're playing on that Sunday. We'll have a fairly normal routine relative to the schedule we're used to.

"We'll get on the tape and start working heavy on Minnesota these next few days, and get ready to put together a good practice week and a good plan for Sunday."

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