While both teams had a few doubters early on in the 2009-2010 NFL season, the Vikings and Saints both managed to prove them all wrong in a hurry. By the halfway point of the season, they both appeared to be the favorites to make it all the way to the NFC Title Game, and now they’re both here with a trip to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami on the line.
Here is a breakdown of the unit matchups between the Saints and the underdog Vikings.
The Saints boast perhaps the most explosive offense since the Patriots went 16-0 two years ago, and Drew Brees is the trigger man. Brees is exceptional off of ball-fakes and play-action, and it’s all set up by the run game.
Reggie Bush is playing more determined than ever before as well, using power to go along with his speed and vast repertoire of moves.
The Saints can score points much quicker than the Vikings but Jamaal Brown’s absence at LT will hurt them against a strong pass rush.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have a better run game that will be tough for the Saints to stop on defense. In a one-game elimination scenario, Adrian Peterson, Steve Hutchinson, Bryant McKinnie and co. will come at the Saints with a full head of steam on every play looking to punish defenders.
The key to this game will be for Brett Favre to avoid the key mistake as he has made in past playoff games.
The Saints are more explosive but the Vikings have the potential to control the clock in their matchup with a good but not great defense.
The Saints have an opportunistic bunch led by ageless wonder Darren Sharper at safety. Sharper is a former Vikings star who seems to always be in the right place at the right time.
But much like the rest of his defensive mates, he can be taken advantage of at times.
The Saints will need a good push up front from d-line stars like Will Smith and Charles Grant to keep Adrian Peterson from getting to the corner on runs in this NFC Title Game. If the Saints’ defense were a little more consistent they’d be more likely to win but this is where the worry comes into play for Saints fans.
As for the Vikings, they’re simply loaded at almost every position. Considering the axiom “defense wins championships,” it’s a bit surprising to some people that the Saints are the favorite here to some people.
The Vikings have a very good linebacking corps led by Chad Greenway, a secondary so strong that Antoine Winfield has been playing nickelback recently, and a defensive line that ranks second to none. Kevin Williams, the DT, and DE Ray Edwards both practiced this week leading up to the NFC Title Game and should be ready to go. If the Vikings can stop the run game up front and get after Brees a little bit they have a great chance to pull the upset.
Both teams have a dynamite return guy in Percy Harvin for the Vikings and Reggie Bush for the Saints. Bush is more focused and perhaps more healthy now, however. But kicker Garrett Hartley’s playoff inexperience is a concern for the Saints..
Ryan Longwell is as dependable as they come for the Vikings.
Brad Childress still takes some flack from Vikings fans but he and his staff have proven to be a solid strategist. Sean Payton on the other hand has been on a roll lately with the Saints and his staff has seemingly dialed up all the right plays at the right times, especially on offense with the flea-flicker TD vs. the Cardinals the best piece of evidence for their timely play-calling
NFC Title Game Prediction:
This comes down to a classic battle of offense vs. defense, although both teams are good all-around. In the end, the tie-breaker for betting on this game is homefield advantage for the Saints, who play in one of the most raucous environments in the NFL.
Expect the Saints to win this one close with a late TD thanks to some Brees heroics.