#5 Seed New York Jets (11-7) at #1 Seed Indianapolis Colts (15-2)
Sunday 3 PM ET, Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis, IN.
#2 Seed Vikings (13-4) at #1 Seed Saints (14-3)
Sunday 6:40 ET, New Orleans Superdome, New Orleans, LA.
Surprisingly enough, there isn't only one game to be played on Sunday. Since this is a board that harbors some distaste for Brett Favre, let's take a peek into Sunday's "other" game and discuss how the Saints can win.
For Jets/Colts Preview... click HERE
Key Matchup --- Vikings #1-ranked red zone passing offense vs Saints #1-ranked red zone passing defense.
- Favre has thrown 27 TD's in the red zone this year, while the Saints have only allowed 7 passing TD's in the red zone. Brett has a rating of 111.1 when in scoring range, while the Saints are holding opposing QB's to a rating of 52.3.
- Vikings are 1-4 against teams with 7 or more wins.. and also have not won a road game since Nov. 1.
X Factor: Reggie Bush (see "Why the Saints will have success on Offense")
How The Saints Can Win- This one is simple --- Stop Adrian Peterson. He hasn't rushed for more than 100 yards since week 10, and that was against the mighty Detroit Lions. When these teams met just over a year ago, the Saints held him to just 32 yards on 21 carries. This year, the saints are giving up 4.5 ypc on the ground, and they have to limit Peterson's effectiveness in order to put all the pressure on "Gunslinger" to take it upon himself to air it out and throw into coverage. I have a feeling the Favre of old will return, and the team that has forced 26 interceptions this year will pick him at least twice.
How The Vikings Can Win - Stop New Orleans run-game (both east-to-west and north-to-south) without committing to it -- thus making the Saints a one-dimensional team. New Orleans has been criticized for living off the big play too much this year, and if Minnesota can stop the run they will be able to force New Orleans into strictly passing downs and also have the flexibility to play one or both safetys over the top to defend against the Saints vertical routes which they love to run.
Saints, by a mile. I will take a lot of heat here, but I think Brad Childress is the most overrated coach in the NFL. He has always had a stacked team and all of the tools to succeed yet it took him four years to finally win his first career playoff game last week. He is a push-over and allows his players to run his team - they don't respect him. Chilly has had a Super-Bowl-caliper team for years, but could never get them there. He has now allowed Brett to take over this team and totally dictate their style of play. Childress is not even a head coach, he is merely a background character in the 'Brett Favre Show'. They have argued back and forth all year, and are clearly not on the same page.
Sean Payton on the other hand is a players-coach. He knows his team's strengths well and his players believe that he can coach them to a championship. Three years ago, he won the Coach of the Year award. Gregg Williams is also one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. Believe it or not, the Saints blitzed more times then any team in the NFL this season.
The Perfect Balance:
This is what every NFL team strives to achieve, but who really has this? The Saints are the only team. We know they have a great passing attack, and that they are tied for 3rd in the NFL as they pass for 270 yards/game. What you probably didn't know, is that they are also ranked 6th in rushing yards (134 ypg) and that they rush 28 times/game. This is why they are the #1 total offense in both YPG (404.7) and PPG (32.6). The Saints just have so many weapons and are a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. If you try to nickel/dime the Saints, Brees will have the luxury of sitting in the pocket and throwing.... and their speedy RB's will also kill you in the flats. On the other hand, if you stack the box, Brees will kill you w/ play action/vertical routes.
Why the Saints will have success on Offense/The Reggie Bush Factor:
The Vikings play a lot of Cover-2 defense to defend against the big play. Drew Brees will see a lot of A/B Gap blitzes and need to release the ball quickly, but he has done a good job in that regard and taken only 20 sacks this season. NO is a great screen team and if Reggie Bush finds himself in space with the ability to burst into the secondary, he could break a couple of big ones. This Minny secondary is not fast enough to track him down in a footrace.
I also believe he may be a key player in the special teams game. Minnesota has given up six touchdowns by their ST unit this season and Reggie is dangerous when returning kicks. Watch out..
We've said all season the key to beating Minnesota is predicated on getting pressure up the middle on the immobile, 40-year-old Favre, and containing Adrian Peterson. The Saints can do both of those things.
While the Vikings may be able to stop the Saints from running inside the tackles, I don't think they have the speed to stop the Saints from bouncing it to the outside. I also believe the Saints will also have success with their vertical passing game against a slower, more elder Vikings secondary.
Last week we discussed the importance of the Saints finally having both starting CB's back healthy and it really showed. Gregg Williams unleashed a variety of different blitzes and surely has saved some more exotic ones to throw at Favre this week.
Let's face it the old man is 40-years-old now, and it's safe to say he's become a solely pocket passer. Maybe that's why he was sacked 34 times this year?
WhoDat Nation (The Saints 12th man) will be in full effect and I think the HFA will be huge in this game with the Saints feeding off of their energy. It may sound elementary, but the Vikings simply are not good playing away from the MetroDome. They're 9-0 there, but a mediocre 4-4 on the road. Minny will have to wait till 2010 to buck their road game losing streak, and at the same time, the Brett Favre soap opera will finally end as he flees from this loss into retirement..... WHO DAT!!!! Saints 30, Vikes 23.