The League

Mark Maske
Staff Writer

Mark Maske

Writes the NFL News Feed blog

NFC Championship preview


Vikings at Saints

When Vikings have the ball... Does Brett Favre have another superb game in him, this time against the team for which he rooted while growing up in Mississippi? Favre came out of retirement for a second time thinking he might be a complementary piece on a Vikings team that would rely on the running of Adrian Peterson, its offensive line and its defense. Instead, he has been a focal point, with 33 TD passes and only seven interceptions during the regular season and four TD passes and no interceptions in last weekend's 34-3 triumph over the Cowboys. WR Sidney Rice had three TD catches. Peterson averaged only 2.4 yards per carry vs. Dallas and had his eighth straight sub-100-yard rushing game. The Saints ranked 21st in the NFL in rush defense and 26th in pass defense during the regular season and surrendered a 70-yard TD run by Arizona's Tim Hightower 19 seconds into the game last weekend. But the New Orleans defense settled down from there and had a good day, limiting Cardinals QB Kurt Warner to no TD passes and intercepting him once.

When Saints have the ball... The Minnesota defense sacked Cowboys QB Tony Romo six times last weekend, harassing Romo into an interception and three fumbles. The Cowboys couldn't block Jared Allen early and when they adjusted, fellow Vikings DE Ray Edwards took advantage and had three sacks. Edwards hurt his knee in that game but is vowing to play. The Saints led the NFL in total offense and scoring offense during the regular season and had things going last weekend against the Cardinals, with QB Drew Brees throwing three TD passes. One thing that's often overlooked is the Saints' effectiveness in the running game. RB Reggie Bush ran for 84 yards and a TD against the Cardinals, and the Saints ranked sixth in the league in rushing offense during the regular season.

Special teams... Bush had a TD on a punt return last weekend, so it will be the responsibility of the Vikings' Chris Kluwe to angle punts toward the sideline. Vikings rookie Percy Harvin made the NFC Pro Bowl team as a returner. If it comes down to a big kick or two, the Vikings have the edge in experience with Ryan Longwell over Saints youngster Garrett Hartley. Longwell made 26 of 28 FG attempts during the regular season, while Hartley went 9 for 11.

Coaches... There were reports during the Vikings' 1-3 stretch in December that Coach Brad Childress was clashing with Favre over Favre's tendency to audible from running plays to passing plays. All seems well now and Childress deserves credit for sticking with the running game last week, getting Peterson 26 carries, even when it wasn't getting big yards. The Saints' Sean Payton is probably the more daring of the two coaches, and more likely to make a bold call with a gadget play or a fourth-down gamble.

Prediction... It's all about the two QBs. Favre has been terrific but Brees has been even better and he brings Favre's successful comeback season to an end one step shy of the Super Bowl as the Saints prevail, 34-31.

By Mark Maske  |  January 20, 2010; 11:46 PM ET  | Category:  Minnesota Vikings , New Orleans Saints Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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hard game both teams are great defenses and running back also wide reserve,but i think who the winner will be the vikings.

Posted by: mergulhaobreckenfeld | January 22, 2010 3:53 AM

Its all gonna come down to this: which team can get the opposing QB out of sinc with hurries, hits and sacks. I think the Vikings come out a little bit ahead in this catagory and thus my pick is Minnisota. BUT - on any given Sunday !!!! Thats why they play the games and thats what makes football so compelling and enjoyable to watch. The real winner : The NFL and the fans!!!

Posted by: US-conscience | January 24, 2010 1:00 PM

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