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What to watch for in Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints on Christmas Day

It's the gift that keeps on giving all four quarters long.

Sure to make for a merrier Christmas, the NFL schedule gives the gift of a Friday showdown to kick off Week 16.

Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings (6-8) take on Drew Brees and the host New Orleans Saints (10-4) on Christmas Day at 4:30 p.m. ET from the Superdome in a game airing on NFL Network, FOX and streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

In a mix of the Miracle on 34th Street and the Minneapolis Miracle, if you will, the Saints are aiming to sew up another NFC South title, while the Vikings are clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

This will mark the 22nd Christmas game in NFL history and the first since 2009, per NFL Research. But perhaps most emblematic of 2020, kickoff on Friday will culminate a season in which the NFL has had a game on each and every day of the week for the first time in league history.

Here's what to watch for:

Will Brees be back to form?

Returning to action after suffering a painful array of busted ribs and a punctured lung, Drew Brees certainly didn't look like his future Hall of Fame-self in Week 15 during a loss to the Chiefs, but it would've been folly to expect him to. Having shaken off some rust and going up against the Vikings' 24th-ranked pass defense, Brees should have the opportunity to settle into form. With Michael Thomas on injured reserve, the Saints offense as a whole still isn't full-strength, but Thomas has been out of the lineup more this season than he's been in. As important as this game is for the Saints to lock up the division, it's just as pivotal in enabling them to get their offense right and firing as it's been accustomed. That starts with Brees. The theme of this season for the Saints has been that this is likely their last year to go all-in on winning a Super Bowl with the 41-year-old Brees' days in the NFL numbered. The time is now. The playoffs are just about to commence and Brees has returned just in time for a little fine-tuning before every ensuing game could be his last. And what better opponent to do that against than the Vikings, who ended Brees and the Saints' 2019 campaign with an upset in the NFC Wild-Card Round.

Dalvin and Alvin look to dazzle

Two of the most talented tailbacks in the NFL are set to showcase their skills under the Christmas lights. The Vikings' Dalvin Cook and the Saints' Alvin Kamara have been among the top of the year-long list for AP Offensive Player of the Year candidates. Cook enters Week 16 with an NFC-leading 1,484 yards rushing and tied for tops in the league with 15 rushing scores. Having had a long-awaited breakout season in 2019 in which he played a career-high 14 games and eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time, Cook has followed up with career-highs in rushing yards and touchdowns, as he boasts 114.2 yards per game and leads the NFL in scrimmage yards with 1,833. Kamara has 1,516 scrimmage yards thus far, having burst upon the 2020 season in grand fashion, but his numbers waned a bit with Brees injured. Now, Kamara has an outside chance at a first 1,000-yard rushing season with 777 yards on 165 rushes, but he is just 76 yards from matching his career-high in total yards. Kamara and Cook, each of them 25, will share the field for just the third time in their careers looking to put on a show.

Jefferson shining as star of 2020 WR class

Among a much-ballyhooed 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver class, Justin Jefferson, the guy taken 22nd overall by the Vikings and the fifth wideout off the board, has emerged as the best of the bunch almost a full regular season in. Jefferson's the only rookie receiver to have garnered 1,000 yards receiving, as he stands at 1,182 and his 73 catches are likewise at the head of the class. Jefferson's seven touchdowns trail only the Steelers' Chase Claypool (eight). Having produced six 100-yard games so far, Jefferson is leading the celebrated 2020 class, but he's looked anything like a rookie during his Pro Bowl first campaign. He'll have his work cut out for him against the fifth-ranked Saints pass defense on Friday, however.

Cousins faces motivated Saints D

Though the Saints are coming off a Week 15 loss to the Chiefs, New Orleans' defense has been abundantly praised for its performance in the defeat. The Saints harassed Patrick Mahomes to the tune of four sacks and an un-Mahomes-like completion percentage of 55. Considering the Saints are coming off back-to-back losses, Cameron Jordan was controversially ejected in Week 15, Trey Hendrickson and Demario Davis were notable Pro Bowl snubs and New Orleans is facing the team that ended its 2019 campaign, Kirk Cousins is likely facing a grumpy defense (ranked No. 5 in the NFL). However, Cousins is quarterbacking the NFL's No. 5 total offense and has done pretty well against the Saints, having produced a 2-2 record with 10 touchdowns to just one interception and 311.8 yards per game. The Vikings' slim postseason aspirations involve a lot of help and winning out. Obviously, for any of that to happen, Cousins and Co. have to win on Friday. And stellar a Saints defense won't be lacking any inspiration in aiming to stop any kind of miraculous hopes for the Vikings.

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