NFC Championship Game
Just like they draw it up on paper, the No. 2 seed in the NFC, Minnesota travels to New Orleans to take on the No. 1 seed, Saints in a 6:60 PM start on Sunday, Jan. 24 for the conference championship and a trip to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami on Feb. 7.
Minnesota earned a spot in the title game by completely destroying one of the hottest teams in the league at the time, the Dallas Cowboys. The final score was 34-3, and it was not even that close. The Vikings used a dominating defense to shut down the Cowboy’s running game as well as put a tremendous amount of pressure on QB Tony Romo.
Dallas ended with just 248 yards of total offense with less than 100 on the ground. Romo turned the ball over three times, losing two fumbles and throwing an interception. He ended the day completing 22 out of 35 attempts for 198 yards with no TD’s. On offense, Viking QB Brett Favre showed why he came back for one more shot at a title by managing the game to perfection with the perfect balance between run and pass. It is also worth mentioning he threw four TD passes as well.
New Orleans finished the regular season with three straight losses, but there were no signs of any problems in their 45-14 rout of Arizona. The Saints' offense scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions as QB Drew Brees made a strong case that he should have won the league MVP as opposed to Peyton Manning. He completed 23 passes out of 32 attempts for 247 yards and three TD’s.
RB Reggie Bush, who toiled in relative obscurity this season, was also a huge factor in this win. He ran for 84 yards on only five carries including a 46-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to put the Saints up by 14 points. He added an 83-yard punt return for a TD in the fourth quarter to cap off his impressive performance.
Defensively, New Orleans prevented Cardinal QB Kurt Warner from working his magic, holding him to only 205 yards passing on the day. They also kept All-Pro WR Larry Johnson out of the end zone. One of the most prolific receivers in the game today, Johnson was held to six receptions for 77 yards.
Minnesota’s biggest challenge in this game will be trying to slow down the Saint’s offense. In last week’s game against the Cardinals, five different players ran the ball and Brees completed passes to six different receivers. With this many weapons to account for, the Vikings will need another monumental effort from their two big men up front (Jared Allen and Ray Edward) to be a disruptive force.
On offense, Minnesota will look to RB Adrian Peterson to break out of his recent slump to try and establish the running game. Their best defense against New Orleans’ offense is to keep them on the sidelines with long, sustained drives that end in points on the board. Favre may be able to win a shootout against Brees, but it is not in the team’s interest to try.
New Orleans’ plan will be to score early and often just like last week. They will be hard pressed to run the ball against the Vikings, so look for Brees to employ short, quick passes to defuse Minnesota’s pass rush, while always keeping an eye down-field in an effort to make a couple of big plays.
One of the keys for the Saints could be TE Jeremy Shockey as he appears to be almost 100 percent after missing the last three games of the season with an injury. Defensively the Saints need to keep Peterson from gaining any kind of momentum and put as much pressure on Favre as possible. If they can rattle him early, the wheels may come off just as they have in the past.
While each team’s defense will try and contain the opposing team’s offense, there is just too much fire power on the field in this game to completely shut either one of them down. I look for Brees and Favre to trade touchdowns all day long, turning this game into a high scoring shootout.
What I do not like is the Viking’s record on the road as they are not nearly as good away from the friendly confines of Minnesota. Score one for the benefits of home field advantage and take the Saints and the OVER .
- Minnesota is 13-4 SU in its last 17 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Minnesota’s last nine games.
- Minnesota is 1-4 ATS in its last five games on the road.
- Minnesota is 1-4 SU in its last five games on the road.
- New Orleans is 1-5 ATS in its last six games.
- New Orleans is 14-3 SU in its last 17 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in four of New Orleans’s last five games.
- New Orleans is 2-4 ATS in its last six games at home.