Five Reasons the Minnesota Vikings Will Win on Sunday
This has been the game that the NFL has been waiting for all year. The top two teams in the NFC. Both teams destroyed their opponents last week and are hungry for a shot at the Super Bowl.
This game features the two best offenses in the NFL, two of the best passing attacks, and more story lines and subplots than the average sports fan can handle.
Both teams just came off of blowouts and will be hungry for more, and the Superdome will probably shatter stadium noise records. In spite of this, however, the Vikings will come out on top, for the following five reasons.
If history means anything, Reggie Bush will be a nonfactor.
The Vikings have had a top two rush defense since 2006 (only finishing second this year). A major factor in the Vikings defensive success is their ability to make teams one-dimensional.
On Sunday, the Vikings face a Saints running back corps that features three backs that play to the Vikings defensive strengths. Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Lynell Hamilton are all primarily between the tackles backs.
Thomas is more versatile than the other three, but he still isn't the burner that is the Vikings' weakness against the run. The back that represents this threat is Reggie Bush, who exploded last week against Arizona.
Many see this as a sign of things to come, but I would like to respectfully disagree with that assessment. Over the course of his wildly inconsistent career, Bush has proven that he is not an every-down back, and cannot be counted on to produce from week to week.
Although there is no guarantee that he won't be this year's Fitz, I just can't see it happening. He will be good for 60 total yards on offense, and the Vikings' punt team will kick it away from him.
The Vikings D will make the Saints one-dimensional.
If my argument in the last slide holds any water, the Vikings will effectively shut down the Saints' rushing offense. The Vikings will not need to over-commit to the run to stop it, so they will be able to effectively defend the pass.
If New Orleans is forced to pass, then that leave Brees vulnerable to the monster that is the Vikings' pass rush.
Granted, New Orleans has shown that they can be made one-dimensional and still win games. However, against top ten defenses, the Saints are 2-2 (and would be 1-3 had Washington made a 20 yard field goal).
The Saints defense is not good enough to contain the Vikings' offense.
This season, the Vikings offense scored more than any other team except the Saints. They demonstrated the ability to score easily from the air and on the ground.
Adrian Peterson led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns, and Brett Favre was second in the NFL with 33 passing touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints defense ranked 25th in the NFL in yards allowed (26th against the pass and 21st against the run). Last week, the Vikings shut down the Cowboys defense which effectively silenced the Saints in week 14.
Where the Vikings have a strength on defense to force the Saints to become one dimensional, the Saints have no such luxury. Although he has been quiet as of late, expect Adrian Peterson to have a huge day if the Saints commit to stop Brett Favre, and vice versa.
Either way, they will have to over-commit to stop one or the other, and in doing so, they will expose themselves to a potentially devastating offensive weapon.
If the Vikings can score early and often, they will take the air out of the Superdome, and it should be smooth sailing. The Saints' only hope is that the Vikings play to their defense's strength and turn the ball over, however...
The Vikings will not beat themselves with turnovers.
The Saints had the second most takeaways in the NFL with 38. That has been the bright spot in an otherwise lackluster year for the Saints' defense. This is what analysts point to when they try to find a way for the Saints to beat the Vikings offense.
There is some logic to this idea, Adrian Peterson is the most fumble prone back in the NFL, and Brett Favre is the career interceptions leader. What is often over looked though, is that the Vikings have turned the ball over less than all but two teams in the NFL.
Favre has thrown fewer interceptions than anyone in the league, and although Peterson's reputation of fumbling is deserved, he has only put the ball on the ground once in the last six games.
Through 17 games they have given it away 18 times, and it's looking more and more that Brett Favre will never have "that game."
The Vikings have the most clutch kicker in the playoffs.
In a postseason where kicking has been absolutely atrocious, and the hottest team in the AFC fell because their kicker went 0/3, good kicking seems more important than ever.
The Saints have rookie Garrett Hartley, who for all intents and purposes is a rookie, and has never made a kick beyond 50 yards. Ryan Longwell, on the other hand, is one of the most clutch kickers in recent history and over his 13 year career has converted 81 percent of his kicks, good for fifth all-time.
This season he converted 93 percent of his attempts, good for best in the league among kickers with over 20 attempts. In a game this close, the kickers will prove to be more important than anyone gives them credit for.
As a Viking fan, however, a nearly automatic kicker doesn't instill nearly as much confidence as it should...