First Look: Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints

Kyle StaffContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 17:  Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on January 17, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The Vikings defeated the Cowboys 34-3.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The game we have all been waiting for is finally here.  Vikings vs. Saints in a battle for NFC supremacy and a trip to the Super Bowl.

So how will it all play out?

On the one hand you have the Minnesota Vikings.  After storming out to a 6-0 start, the Vikings faltered slightly late in the season, finishing just 2-3 their last five games.  They couldn't get the running game going and Favre was beginning to show signs of his old self, throwing unjustified interceptions.

Minnesota caught a break when the Eagles lost in week 17, giving the Vikes the No. 2 seed and a week to rest.  The Vikings put the rest to good use, as they dismantled a great Cowboy squad 34-3 in the divisional round.

Minnesota will need all the rest it can get this week, as it ventures down the Mississippi to New Orleans next Sunday to face the red-hot Saints.

The Saints were another team who fell behind late in the season.  After getting off to a 13-0 start, the Saints dropped their next three.  Experts began to write them off, saying their defense was too beat up and too weak to make it in the playoffs.  

Turns out, they don't need much defense.  Drew Brees and the Saints offense looked nothing short of unstoppable, piling up 45 points against an overmatched Cardinals defense.

So with two very dangerous teams fighting for their playoff lives, who's got the edge?

The Vikings offense has been predicated on running the ball for the past few seasons. But, since the arrival of Favre, the Vikings have become a pass-first offense, and have been quite successful doing it.  Favre had his best season in the NFL this year, tossing 33 regular season touchdowns to only seven interceptions.  Favre's magic continued in the playoffs, as he recorded a postseason career-high four touchdowns against the Cowboys.  

On Sunday, Darren Sharper and the Saints defense will look to put an end to Brett's legendary season.  For them to do that, it has to start up front.  Will Smith and the rest of the line must get to Favre and bring him down before he is able to connect with his big-play receivers.  If they don't, it's going to be a long day for New Orleans.  The other major factor will be the play of the aforementioned Sharper.  

Perhaps no defensive back in the league knows Favre better than Sharper. The two were teammates in Green Bay and faced each other twice a year when Brett was a Packer and Sharper a Viking.  If Sharper can disrupt Brett early to the tune of an interception, the game will be all but over.  Brett has a problem getting back in rhythm once he's out of it and if he gets down early I don't see him being able to keep up with the Saints offense.

But Brett doesn't have to win all by himself.  The Vikings defense proved very dangerous against the Cowboys and will look to continue the trend against the Saints. They will have their hands full and then some against Drew Brees this Sunday.  

The key to that matchup will be the Saints' offensive line vs. the Vikings' defensive line.  The D-line for Minnesota absolutely trashed the Cowboys O-line, sacking Tony Romo six times.

Jared Allen and company will have to continue to be menaces if they are going to slow down New Orleans' passing attack.  When Brees is allowed to sit back and make his reads, he is unstoppable.  If Ray Edwards is unable to play on Sunday, that is a huge blow to the Vikings.

I really don't know who is going to win this game.  It's going to come down to one defense being able to stop the opposing quarterback.  I think the deal breaker will be the Superdome.  The Vikings are a pedestrian 4-4 on the road this season and New Orleans plays exceptional at home.  Drew Brees and the Saints offense should be too much for the Vikings defense.


Saints 38

Vikings 28