The NFL season is finally upon us. No more training camp and preseason games. It's time for some real football.
The Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints will open the regular season tonight in the highly anticipated rematch of the NFC Championship Game.
The Saints won that game in overtime, 31-28.
New Orleans will unveil their first Super Bowl banner in front of their charged up home crowd. But while the NFL's opening game of the regular season is usually all about the defending Super Bowl champs, Brett Favre and the Vikings have stolen some of the headlines.
How will Favre's ankle affect his play?
Who will step up at receiver for the Vikings who are missing Sidney Rice?
How much more will Minnesota Brad Childress whine and complain about how hard Favre was hit in a game that was played nearly eight months ago?
All of this is taking away from the Saints who are well-deserving in their privilege to host the league's opening game.
Here are 1p reasons the Saints will beat the Vikings and begin the year 1-0.
Gregg Williams quickly made his presence known with the aggressive style of defense he called all season a year ago. His aggressiveness translated into 39 takeaways,several defensive touchdowns, and a beat down of some Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
There's no reason for Williams to take his foot off the accelerator now. He's going up against a quarterback with a gimpy ankle and an opposing coach who suggested that his plays dirty.
You can bet that Williams will be sending blitzers into every gap on any given play.
Brett Favre helped to further popularize the song "Pants on the Ground" when he sang it in the Vikings' locker room following their playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
It's ironic that those words became prophetic just a week later as Favre's pants were on the ground quite often in the Superdome.
Favre and his bum ankle will not be able to dodge everything the Saints send at him. Look for the constant pressure to cause Favre to hurry a few passes and throw one or two into the waiting arms of the Saints secondary.
The last time the Drew Brees walked off the field of a meaningful football game, he took home with him the Super Bowl MVP trophy. Since then, he's written an inspirational book, flown with the Thunderbirds, and been adored everywhere he's walked in New Orleans.
Brees has vaulted himself to the top of the quarterback pecking order and will be the best player in the field tonight.
The Saints probably have the best collection of receivers in the NFL. They have multiple receivers that could start for many teams in the league. Sean Payton usually doesn't keep six receivers but was forced to because Adrian Arrington's preseason performance could not be ignored.
Starters Marques Colston and Robert Meachem will likely combine for close to 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns by the season's end.
Devery Henderson has enough speed to burn any defender.
The Vikings receiving corps took a huge hit when Sidney Rice, who suffered a hip injury against the Saints, recently had surgery to repair the injury. He is out for tonight's game and is likely out for about six weeks.
Benard Berrian, Percy Harvin, and Greg Camarillo form a good trio, but they would be much better with their No. 1 out there.
Garrett Hartley, who was a virtual unknown a year ago aside from Saints fans, kicked himself into the record books and into New Orleans lore by scoring the game-winning points in the NFC Championship Game and kicking three 40+ yard field goals in the Super Bowl.
Sean Payton has confidence that his kicker will make a pressure kick when called upon.
It seems that the Saints have had the Vikings' number in the return game in the past two years. In a regular season game in 2008, Reggie Bush returned two punts for touchdowns and nearly broke away for a third.
In the NFC Championship Game, wide receiver Courtney Roby returned the opening kick of the second half 61 yards to set up a Saints' touchdown. Running back Pierre Thomas returned the opening kick of overtime 40 yards to set up the historic field goal.
Sean Payton has never been afraid to take a calculated risk and that was never more evident than when he called for an onside kick to begin the second half of Super Bowl XLIV. The play called "ambush" forever swung the momentum of the game to the Saints.
Payton also likes run an occasional trick play and to go for it on fourth down when other coaches would punt. This goes a long way to instill confidence in his players and keep the opposition guessing.
You'd think that the Super Bowl champs would have earned the respect of nearly everyone, but this hasn't been the case. There have been some suggestions that the Saints were lucky to even make it to the Super Bowl and then to finally win it.
Apparently, some people think that turnovers on defense are a product of luck even if those turnovers happened all season.
The Saints are already being discounted from winning the Super Bowl again this season even though they return the coaching staff and the vast majority of the starters from a year ago.
One of the biggest points of emphasis in Gregg Williams' defense is to force and recover fumbles. The Vikings fumbled six times against the Saints, losing three of them, and five of them were stripped out by the Saints. The missed hand off between Favre and Peterson was the only fumble that was not caused by a Saints defender.
Adrian Peterson has a history of fumbling in his three seasons in the NFL and the Saints will surely rip at the ball early and often in an effort to force a turnover.
Including the playoffs, the Saints were 8-2 at home in 2009. The Vikings were just 4-5 on the road.
The crowd will be jacked up for a number of reasons. For one, it's the first game of the regular season and it's on national TV. Secondly, New Orleans will raise their Super Bowl banner during the pregame festivities. Finally, the Vikings are expected to again be one of the better teams in the NFC and the crowd will be motivated to do everything they can to mess up their offensive rhythm.