- Deuce is Back
Dissecting the Cardinals’ ‘Five Things’
- Championship Round Set; Predictions
Sunday, January 24 marks the date of a first time occurrence in the history of the NFL. New Orleans will be hosting an NFC Championship game as the New Orleans Saints take on the Minnesota Vikings for a right to go to Super Bowl XLIV.
Brett Favre will be leading the second ranked offense into the Superdome to face off with Drew Brees and the number one ranked offense in the NFL. It’s going to be explosive and anything could happen so Minnesota Vikings’ Examiner Joe Oberle and myself thought we’d ask one another what we think will go down.
Joe and myself decided to ask five questions dealing with the big game to see exactly where we stood. In order to see what is important. In order to see what should be duplicated from impressive wins in the Divisional Round and what shouldn’t be. We have our thoughts, but it
Danny Cox: With the Jets last year, Brett Favre started out on fire leading them to an 8-3 record before an eventual collapse that ended with 22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Everyone thought he had finally met his end, but then he brought the Vikings to a 12-4 record with 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. What caused the transformation?
Joe Oberle: It came out in bits and pieces after last season that Brett Favre had a torn bicep muscle and that caused his late season throwing problems. He said this year that he told his coaches that perhaps he should sit, but they wanted him to play, so he continued, but he was clearly injured. This summer, he had surgery on the muscle and that has allowed him to play, and play very well. In addition, coming to the Vikings, he has played in an offense that is very similar to the one he ran in Green Bay for 16 seasons–the offense in New York was not. Throw in the running threat of Adrian Peterson that opens up the pass for him, a great supporting cast of receivers and utilizing more of a game manager than gunslinger mentality and you have Favre putting up some of the best numbers of his Hall of Fame career.
Danny Cox: I’m going to go out on a limb here (not really) and say that Reggie Bush is the x-factor for the New Orleans Saints. My next stretch (maybe) is that Percy Harvin is the x-factor for the Vikings. What do you believe he brings to this team and how much has he meant to Minnesota?
Joe Oberle: I will join you out on that limb–Reggie Bush scares a lot of us Vikings fans, precisely because we watch the similarly talented Percy Harvin and can see what kind of game changer he is. Harvin, though relatively quiet since his major bout with migraine headaches, is due to make something happen. I actually thought he would be more of a factor against the Cowboys, but he didn’t get in the game that often because of the tight end protection packages needed to stop the Dallas rush. That could change this week since New Orleans runs a 4-3 defense. Harvin has very good hands, is willing to make tough catches over the middle of the field and is often difficult to tackle on the first hit. If the Saints kick off to him, rather than avoiding him as most teams have recently, he has the ability to help the Vikings win the field position battle–or maybe even break one, a la Reggie Bush.
Danny Cox: We are heading for a match-up of quite possibly the best defensive line in the entire NFL with the Vikings. The Saints are the number one offense in the NFL and a lot of it relies on keeping Drew Brees safe and upright. Do you believe the Saints’ offensive line will be able to withstand the barrage of Jared Allen and company? Why or why not?
Joe Oberle: If the Vikings front four plays like they did against Dallas, I would say that Brees might be in for a long afternoon. But that performance was the exception rather than the rule of late. Early in the season Jared Allen had been running wild until offenses started doubling him. We have waited for Ray Edwards to beat his single blocker and have a big day and he did that last Sunday. If he can repeat that performance in New Orleans, the Vikings will do well. Unfortunately, Edwards suffered a mild knee sprain in the Dallas game and it remains to be seen how effective he will be. In addition, the Vikings defense feeds off their home crowd and they won’t have that advantage in the Superdome. Rising above that will be a big factor as to how well they do.
Danny Cox: Wide receiver Sidney Rice has had new life brought into him this season with the addition of Favre’s arm and leadership. Is it that Rice really has been that talented all along or is it just that he finally has a decent and legitimate quarterback throwing to him?
Joe Oberle: A lot has been said about the fact that Favre has made Sidney Rice into the receiver that he has become, and there is plenty of truth to that–Brett loves to throw to him because he believes nobody can cover him. But not enough attention has been paid to how hard Rice has worked to get where he is at. His first year he played well as a rookie, but wasn’t very diligent about his offseason workouts. His sophomore season was injury riddled and basically lost. But this past offseason, he worked out extensively with Larry Fitzgerald and former Viking Cris Carter and learned what it takes to be professional wide receiver. Favre now credits Rice for his desire to learn and become better, and Favre has been a great teacher. But some of the incredible moves Rice makes on the ball, are probably innate, and this year that has all really started to come out. As Favre said Sunday, “There are faster guys. There are taller guys. There are quicker guys. But the thing about Sidney is that he wants to be good. It matters to him.”
Danny Cox: Both teams are coming off 31-point victories against supposed “hot” teams and now they are going to butt heads. Both teams are also used to playing in a Dome, but this time the Vikings will feel the opposing side of it. I was in the Superdome for the Divisional Round and it was the loudest I have heard it in my thirty years on this earth. How do you think the Vikes can contend with that kind of atmosphere and surrounding? And what can they do to make it a non-factor?
Joe Oberle: My ears are still ringing from my trip to the Metrodome on Sunday, where I witnessed firsthand just what kind of an effect that noise can have on a team. The Vikings are certainly familiar with it from the other perspective, and may know how to prepare for it, but I don’t think you can fully appreciate it until you are down on the field and are trying to call plays. About the only thing they can do is jump out to an early lead and try to hold the Saints down. But the Saints can strike so quickly, like they responded to Arizona’s first TD, that you can never really get the crowd out of it for long in the Superdome. This will be one of the biggest factors in the game on Sunday. Brett Favre has certainly played in a hostile environment in the Metrodome as a Green Bay Packer, but this may be new level stuff down in New Orleans. Keep your composure and make plays. Trust your ability and make plays. The more plays the Vikings make, the quieter the crowd will get–in theory.
To check out my answers to Joe’s questions, head on over his way.
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