To say the Vikings looked good on both sides of the ball in their matchup against the Cowboys last week is an overtly obvious understatement. While the result of Sunday’s game wasn’t too surprising to me – Dallas, despite coming into the game red-hot, has been unspectacular in the postseason for years, particularly with Tony Romo at quarterback, and the game was in the Metrodome – I was stunned by the 34-3 score.
Can the Purple now come out Sunday and topple New Orleans? This is the showdown many have been anticipating for few weeks now, as Minny and the Saints had established themselves as the clear class of the NFC by not even midway through the season. In a "Chief" post on Nov. 22, I said Minnesota was "the better team overall," and this was prior to New Orleans dropping its last three games of the regular season. (Granted, the last one shouldn’t count because so many regulars were rested for the playoffs.) I also – at the risk of putting some kind of Sports Illustrated jinx on Brett Favre and Co. – said the Vikings were Super Bowl-bound.
I’m not backing off that call at this stage of the game. Sure, the Saints have the homefield advantage, and the Vikings played mediocre football away from home over the final few weeks of the year. But there are a couple of reasons why I don’t see Minnesota going home with a loss.
For starters, I think Minnesota’s defense, overall, is capable of playing at a higher level than the Saints. Minnesota did a great job last week in pressuring Romo, forcing him into three first-half fumbles. and the Vikings are famously stingy against the run. If the Vikes can keep the New Orleans offense off the field early in the game – and subsequently move the ball themselves – the result will be taking the Superdome crowd out of the game, negating home-field advantage to some extent.
I also think the Vikes have a slight edge on offense, despite the presence of stud Saints QB Drew Brees. Besides Favre, who I feel easily had his best year as a pro – and perhaps, more importantly, seemed to limit his penchant for dangerous risk-taking – there are plenty of guys who can do damage. Adrian Peterson is due for a breakout game, and if that happens it will make the passing attack that much more dangerous.
Reggie Bush had an amazing game last week for New Orleans and he, Brees and receiver Marques Colston are probably that team’s most dangerous weapons. The Vikings, I feel, have just a bit more versatility, however. And this game is exactly whay Favre came back for – a shot at the Super Bowl.
The game will be a shootout, but I see the Vikings emerging – probably by a margin the range of 3-6 points. Whatever the result, I’ll write a follow-up next week – and hopefully, won’t be eating crow.
Speaking of eating crow … some of you may recall that I picked Arizona to beat New Orleans in their game this past weekend. Considering the Cards lost by 31 points, I’d say that was a pretty poor prognostication. I must admit I was ignorant of the fact that Arizona was missing a good number of defensive players, but either way there is little doubt the better team won. (Maybe the Saints posted my blog on their locker-room chalkboard beforehand.)
I nailed the Colts-Ravens game, though, and though I did pick the Chargers to get past the Jets, I probably did gave Gang Green a little more credit than many others. "The J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets could give the Bolts a heck of a scare," I wrote. "If San Diego starts quickly, I think the game’s over, but if Gang Green hangs around and control the pace of things, it’s another matter." That’s pretty much what happened.
I would love to pick the Jets against the Colts Sunday, and considering New York has the top defense in the NFL, they can’t be overlooked. But I just don’t see Indy losing Sunday, and I say they win by double digits.