Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Line, Saints favored by 4 points, Over-Under 53
The home team has won 51 NFL/NFC championship games, lost 24, the 1936 championship game was played on a neutral field…..the regular season series between these teams dates back to 1968, Saints won the first contest between the teams 20-17, winning on a Billy Kilmer touchdown pass…. the Vikings have won eighteen of the 25 regular season games played between them, the last being a 30-27 win in 2008 at New Orleans, a late Bernard Berrian touchdown catch from Gus Frerotte tied it, then a Ryan Longwell field goal won it….Vikings have won both post season games they played against the Saints, they won a 1987 Wild Card game 44-10 in New Orleans and beat the Saints in Minnesota 34-16 in the 2000 NFC Divisional playoffs, highlighted by 2 long Daunte Culpepper scoring throws to Randy Moss…..
Vikings, offense, rushing thirteenth, passing 8th, defense, vs. run 2nd, vs. pass 19th
Vikings are 18-24 lifetime in post season games…. including being 4-4 in NFL/NFC Championship games….they are 1-3 on the road in these contests…..their last Conference championship game appearance was a 41-0 loss to the Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship game….while Brett Favre will be the oldest at age 40 to start a league or conference championship game at quarterback, but he is not the oldest to play quarterback in one, George Blanda at 43 of the Oakland Raiders was the oldest, he replaced injured starter Daryle Lamonica in the second period of the 1970 AFC Championship vs. the Baltimore Colts and threw for two scores in the Colts 27-17 victory….Favre is 13-10 in post season games….he had his best year from a passer rating standpoint, coming in 107.2 for the year, his previous best was 99.5 in 1995….his 4,202 passing yards in 2009 was third best of his career, surpassed by his 1995 and 1998 seasons, he threw for thirty three touchdowns, fifth best of his career, surpassed only by his 1994, 95, 96, and 97 seasons along with 11 multiple touchdown pass games….his 68.4 completion percentage and 7 interceptions are the best of his career, but his rushing totals of just 7 yards on the season is a career low, and his inability to run contributed to Favre suffering 34 sacks, ….
Adrian Peterson had another great year, rushing for 1383 yards, eighteen touchdowns, and he doubled his reception totals from 2008….but he has not had a 100 yard rushing game in 8 consecutive games…. The Vikings as a team ranked thirteenth rushing, averaging 119.9 yards a game…Sidney Rice became a Pro Bowl receiver in 2009 and tied a NFL post season record with three touchdown receptions against the Cowboys….rookie Percy Harvin’s versatility including his 60 receptions made an average Viking receiving corps dangerous…. Jared Allen’s 14.5 sacks led the Vikings as they led the NFL with 48….defensive end Ray Edwards recorded three sacks of Tony Romo last week, tying Carl Eller’s team record for sacks in a playoff game set in the 1975 Hail Mary game loss against Dallas , Edwards sprained his knee but will play against the Saints…. The Vikings will need every sack and quarterback pressure against Drew Brees and his passing game….cornerback Antoine Winfield was named to the Pro Bowl but is still slowed by a foot injury which had him miss six games….defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams were in classic form again in 2009, the Vikings ranked 2nd in the NFL against the rush, allowing just 87 yards a game, but were 19 against the pass, giving up 26 scoring passes, intercepting just 11 passes, and allowing a 63.7 completion percentage, they are not best in pass coverage even with top pass rushing front seven in football….defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will be a head coach one day, but his secondary with the limited Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Benny Sapp, Madieu Williams, and Tyrell Johnson are the team’s biggest liability heading into the championship game…the Viking defensive game plan is simple, pressure Drew Brees enough so he does not have time in the pocket to check to his second or third receiver
Saints, offense, rushing sixth, passing 4th, defense vs. run 21st, vs. pass 26th
Saints have a short and forgettable playoff record, they are three and six in the post season and 0-1 in NFC championship games, they lost to the Bears 39-14 in Chicago in the 2006 NFC Championship game…the Saints will attempt to be the 14th team in NFL/NFC Championship game history to win the title in their first conference championship game played at home, the last team to do it was the 2005 Seahawks, the first, the 1933 Bears…. . quarterback Drew Brees is the catalyst of this team, throwing for 34 touchdowns for the second consecutive season in a row….offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. did an effective job of rotating his receivers in 2009, this kept defenses off balance, never allowing them to key on any one receiver in game planning, Marques Colston, Robert Meacham, Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore all give Brees viable outside options…. TE’s Jeremy Shockey and Dave Thomas combined for 83 receptions forcing safeties to have cover them and freeing the wide receivers more…..the sixth ranked rushing game shared the same game plan as the passing offense, rotate the feature backs, Pierre Thomas who is healthy now led the way with 793 yards, but Mike Bell and Reggie Bush contributed with 10 rushing touchdowns….
The Saints led the NFL by gaining 403 yards a game….Bush set a Saint playoff record with his 46 yard scoring run against the Cardinals in their easy divisional round win….Bush did not get much press this year accounting for 725 combined yards but he will be a key to the Saints offensive game plan Sunday…. Saints ranked second in the NFL with 39 takeaways and second with 26 interceptions….veteran Darren Sharper broke an NFL record by leading the league for a third time in interception return yardage….defensive end Will Smith ranked 5th in the NFL with thirteen sacks….the Saints got to the quarterback for 35 sacks, ranking thirteenth in the league….the key for the Saints defensive game plan will call for defensive tackles Sedrick Ellis and Remi Ayodele to slow Adrian Peterson as much as possible allowing linebackers Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, and Scott Shanle to drop into pass coverage and take away crossing routes by not having to crowd the line of scrimmage.
The Saints will come after the Vikings but will try and slow the pass rush down early with screens and draws to Bush and Thomas. Then we should see Bush moved into the slot creating match up problems for the Viking pass defense, from there Brees would almost be able to do what he wants and have another easy game.
The Vikings have to get Adrian Peterson rolling, it has been more than 2 months since his last 100 yard game, if they can do that, the Saint linebackers will not be able to drop into coverage and take away the Rice and Berrian slant patterns, as well as the Visanthe Shiancoe passes in the flat off of play action. If Peterson runs well early, Favre will have passing lanes open all day, making his day easier, but even with that, the Saint secondary presents some match up problems.
The difference in this championship game comes down to the rapport each quarterback has with his receivers, Favre has had just one year working with his and if they have to get off their game plan, his young receivers may not be able to improvise enough to win. Also, Darren Sharper having played with Favre and against him his entire career knows his tendencies. Favre threw just 7 interceptions in 2009, but has a better than average chance of throwing multiple interceptions in this game against a ball hawking Saint secondary.
Brees should be able to take advantage of the Viking pass coverage, especially with Bush, Brees will take some shots from the Viking rush but he and his receivers have had several years working together, they come back for the ball better than the Viking receivers do. I like their chances against the Viking pass defense better than the Viking receivers against the Saints, the Saints can win this even if Peterson gets 100 yards, they just need to keep him from long gainers.
Finally the history factor, twice the Vikings have ventured to New Orleans for a championship game, Super Bowls IV and nine, and both times played some their worst football in franchise history.
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