|Written by Chris Coleman.
Amidst all the mysteries entering the matchup Sunday night between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings, one thing should be fairly clear and expected: there will be points. Lots of points.
The Saints led the league in scoring this season and the Vikings finished a close second. The divisional round of the NFC playoffs featured both teams in fine form, neither missing a beat from their regular season pace, as both the Vikings and Saints put up 31 point wins.
There is no shortage of storylines heading into the big game in the Big Easy, The Saints are looking to go to their first Super Bowl in franchise history, carrying with them the hopes of a city still rebounding from Hurricane Katrina. The team whose fans once marched into the Superdome wearing bags on their heads that read Aints, are now living and breathing with every run, pass and blitz from the boys in the gold and black.
Peyton Manning and Brett Favre may be the two biggest, sexiest quarterback names not just this week, but in the history of the NFL. While they are the two most recognizable names playing this weekend, Drew Brees has proven over the past three years to be an elite quarterback on par with Manning and Tom Brady. If he can get his team over the hump at home and lead them to Miami and win a Super Bowl, Brees should finally get the respect of the others mentioned.
On the other sideline stands one of the most beloved and polarizing players of his or any generation. Brett Favre’s soap opera seems to be as long running as General Hospital. After becoming synonymous with Green Bay football, he retired-unretired-retired-and-unretired so many times it could make your head spin. But the fact of the matter, as he proved last week, the 40 year-old gunslinger still has what it takes to lead his team to the promise land. His scrambling ability and deep strike capability nailed the Cowboys coffin last week.
But as hot as he was last week, questions must still linger about Favre’s ability to win late in the season and on the road. His career in Green Bay ended when his Packers, undoubtedly the better team, lost to the New York Giants. And this season, despite his heroics, Favre is only 4-4 on the road and led his team to only two wins in their final five games. And those were regular season games.
The Superdome in New Orleans will be one of the loudest stadiums Favre has played in recent memory. Many were sleeping on the Saints as the playoffs started, but if you traveled back to late November, everyone was predicting this Saints team to be here against the Vikings.
"We all see the team that won 13 games in a row, not the team that struggled against the Cowboys and let one get away from us against Tampa," Brees said.
The Saints are firing on all cylinders right now. Their quarterback is as sharp as ever, and their running game chewed up over 170 yards last week against the Cardinals, with the sometimes-invisible man Reggie Bush coming up huge. If the Saints can control the ground game against the over pursuit of the Vikings, the Saints should be in good shape.
Everyone was impressed with the Vikings defense last week, but they were playing against a hobbled Dallas team and at home. That has led to many sleeping on the New Orleans defense, which is vastly underrated. With the help of the noise from the home crowd, the Saints defense should be able to disrupt the Vikings offensive line, leading to some false starts and long second and third downs. I am not confident that if he has to pass the Vikings out of a deep hole, which Brees could put them in by half, that Favre has what it takes on the road.
Last updated on January 24, 2010.