Sunday, Jan. 24, 3:40 p.m. PCT
Minnesota Vikings (13-4) +3½ points at the New Orleans Saints (14-3), Over/Under 52½ points
Home field advantage throughout the playoffs has always been a big deal in the NFL. Just ask Dallas’ Tony Romo how difficult it was last week in the deafening conditions at the Metrodome. Romo was sacked six times on Sunday as the Cowboys were blown away 34-3. Or check with Kurt Warner about his fun filled day at the Louisiana Superdome. His team was thrashed 45-14.
It will be important again this week as the Vikings head south to play at the very same Louisiana Superdome, which is always a mad-house. Without the home crowd noise to help them, that very same Minnesota defense will have its hands full getting pressure on Drew Brees, who was only sacked 20 times all season. On Sunday, the Cardinals didn’t get to him once.
It’s always the defenses that benefit from the raucous crowds. Minnesota surrendered at least 20 points in six of their eight road games during the regular season, holding only Detroit and St. Louis to less. So, now we have one dome team aware of the handicap, getting set to face another dome team who knows how to exploit that handicap.
After checking the stats, these teams are almost a mirror of one another except for the advantage the Saints have when it comes to the number of star players. The Saints feature RBs Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell and a receiving corps of Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and TE Jeremy Shockey. Vikings have widereceivers Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and TE Visanthe Shiancoe, and arguably the NFL’s top running back, Adrian Peterson.
Injury report and roster additions: Minnesota’s Erin Henderson finished serving his four-game suspension due to a violation of the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances, so he’ll be available. Ray Edwards injured his knee during Sunday’s game against the Cowboys and is listed as questionable. Saints players are all healthy except for Jeremy Shockey who injured his knee during Saturday’s game. He’s listed as questionable.
So, who do we like? The game opened with the Saints favored by 4½ points but the line has since moved down to 3½. As you can imagine, the bettors are in love with Brett Favre right now, especially after his amazing highlight-reel TD throws against the Cowboys. The Vikings faithful feel that if their offense keeps going with the balanced attack, no one can beat them. Saints backers would prefer Drew Brees run up the score early and force the Vikings to abandon their running game. As you can see we can make a compelling argument for both sides but you have to take into account that home field advantage. Take the Saints and the “Over”. Wise Guy’s picks from last week went 3-3, for the season 84-79-4.
It’s certainly a small world: New Orleans head coach Sean Payton and Minnesota HC Brad Childress are both graduates and former signal callers at Eastern Illinois University.
Slideshow available: Check out the great photos provided by the Associated Press taken at last week’s Saints/Cardinals NFC Divisional Playoff game in New Orleans.