Memo To the New Orleans Saints: Score Early, Score Often

Dave StanleyCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 16:  (L-R) Offensive lineman Carl Nicks #77 and Jermon Bushrod #74 of the New Orleans Saints get set to pass protect as Drew Brees #9 and Reggie Bush #25 await the snap against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Louisana Superdome on January 16, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 45-14.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Now this is the way the NFL envisioned it:

"One one sideline, there's a legend.

One the other, there's a legend-in-the-making.

Two historically downtrodden franchises, who're always left on the outside looking in, will take the field Sunday, with one of them one step closer to redemption."

The beauty of these 2010 NFL playoffs is that everything that was said above could not only describe the New Orleans Saints' upcoming game against the Minnesota Vikings, but it could also very well describe last week's battle with Arizona.

Or pretty much any number of match ups in this year's postseason.   

Yes, this year's playoffs have it all.

The marketable, type A quarterbacks. 

The sexy, high-octane offenses.

And don't forget the gritty, villainous underdogs to keep things interesting. Hey, every good hero has to have a foil. 

Basically, it couldn't have been scripted any better. 

But now let's get to the meat and potatoes. Who, exactly, will emerge victorious this Sunday evening in the sure-to-be-raucous Louisiana Superdome? 

The smart money is on whoever can get on the scoreboard early.

Much has been made of both teams' prolific offenses, but the difference in this game, on paper anyway, is the stout Vikings defense.

New Orleans can ill-afford to be in an obvious pass-only shootout. If so, then the aggressive Vikings pass rush—led by defensive ends Jared Allen and the resurgent-yet-injured Ray Edwards—essentially gets to tee off on Drew Brees all day.

The Saints defense, on the other hand, isn't as bad as a lot of folks make it out to be. However, they play better with a lead, when their pass defense outshines their Achilles heel, which is their rush defense.

That said, will this match be Adrian Peterson's breakout game?

It's hard to say, given that New Orleans coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are surely privy to the same information.

In addition, the Saints would be wise to employ screen passes to offset the Vikings blitz. Considering that Reggie Bush has been playing like a man possessed as of late, that shouldn't be a problem.

And regarding the proverbial X factors? Simply put, Jeremy Shockey needs to play through his toe injury and be a factor. If he's hot, then he attracts attention from New Orleans' deadly outside receivers.

Chances are he'll step up, considering he was able to score while hurt last week. That, and the fact that he missed out on the last Super Bowl run he was almost involved with, the 2007 New York Giants.

Of course, everything said above could prove to be complete hogwash. Someone could get injured, some unknown could step up to shine...who knows.

And that's the beauty of these playoffs; literally anything can happen.

Just the way you envisioned it.