Best Team In The NFC: Saints, Vikes, or The Cards?

Dan AdamsCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2009

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  An NFL playoff banner is on display as the Miami Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The road to the Super Bowl will likely go through New Orleans in the NFC. Although the Saints boast an undefeated record of 12-0, there continues to be doubt among NFL spectators.

In what should have been their first loss of the season, the Saints escaped Washington D.C. with an unlikely overtime victory. They would have been trailing by ten points in the final minutes had Washington Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham converted a chip-shot 22 yard field-goal. Instead, he shanked it wide. 

MVP candidate Drew Brees brought the Saints right down the field. He hit emerging third-year wide receiver Robert Meachem on a 53 yard touchdown. Meachem has continued to grow as a receiver in his young career. He caught only 12 passes in 2008 for three touchdowns. This season alone he has started six of twelve games and has caught a career-high eight touchdowns and a total of 544 yards.

All may sound so perfect in the Bayou, but they struggled mightily on defense against the hapless Redskins. Washington is 28th in the NFL in scoring. They have been improving as of late, defeating Denver, losing by one point to Dallas, and of course blowing the game against the Saints yesterday. Many will continue to be skeptical of the Saints until they really make a statement within their conference.

Their Monday Night Football victory over New England doesn't look quite as sweet with the Pats losing to the Dolphins as well.

Fans who didn't believe in the Saints were probably leaning towards the previously 10-1 Minnesota Vikings. Their showdown on Sunday night against the surprisingly overlooked, defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals was a catastrophe in it's own right. On KFAN Sports Radio, the voice and host of the Paul Allen Show, P.A. himself posed a similar question to injured cornerback, Antoine Winfield: "Can the Vikings take anything positive away from this loss?"

He answered emphatically with a "No." He basically believed that nothing good comes out of losing. 

You would have to assume head coach Brad Childress would agree. He found out Monday he has lost the centerpiece of his stout defense, E.J. Henderson. His very gruesome break of his left femur will end his season. There was a report by the St. Paul Pioneer Press that a doctor was very optimistic the injury would not affect E.J.'s effectiveness long term.

Brett Favre struggled for the first time all season on Sunday night. A good mix-up of defensive packages and personnel affected Favre like he hadn't been all year. He threw more than a few bad balls last night. Many of them were right in the direction of the bright red Arizona Cardinals jerseys. He ended up with mediocre numbers overall, including two touchdowns and two interceptions.

His demeanor and character will not allow him to carry over the bad performance into his following weeks. He has proven that over and over again. The Cincinnati Bengals were probably rooting for that performance this coming week. Instead, they will have to prepare for the unlikely scenario that he will play un-Favre like next week.

The team that proved the most in Week 13 was the Arizona Cardinals. Not given a whole lot of credit because of their early season struggles, the Cards have really hit their stride, specifically on the road. They have an unimaginable record of 5-1 away from The University of Phoenix Stadium and a 3-3 record in Arizona. They dominated the Vikings in every aspect of the game last night. The held in check the best pure runner in the NFC, Adrian Peterson. They held the most likely MVP candidate in the NFC to a very mediocre performance.

And most of all they shredded up probably the most overlooked bright spot so far in the Vikings season, their defense. With Favre and Peterson on offense, it leaves little time to discuss Jared Allen and the Williams' Wall. The Cardinals made both points moot with their dismantling of Minnesota's defense and utter domination and shutdown of their potent offense. It looks a lot like the Arizona Cardinals we watched back in February of this year. If they continue to play like this, Minnesota is going to have a team right on their heels for that first round bye.


WEEK 14: NO @ ATL (6-6), ARI @ SF (5-7) MNF, CIN (9-3) @ MIN

WEEK 15: DAL (8-4) @ NO , ARI @ DET (2-10), MIN @ CAR (5-7)

WEEK 16: TB (4-8) @ NO, STL @ ARI (1-11), MIN @ CHI (5-7)

WEEK 17: NO @ CAR (5-7), MIN @ NYG (7-5), GB (8-4) @ ARI

ADVANTAGE - ARIZONA (16-32 Combined Opponent Record)

DISADVANTAGE - MINNESOTA (26-22 Combined Opponent Record)