by Michael Lombardi
January 22, 02010
QUOTE: “To believe is to be happy; to doubt is to be wretched. To believe is to be strong. Doubt cramps energy. Belief is power. Only so far as a man believes strongly, mightily, can he act cheerfully, or do anything that is worth the doing.” -- Frederick William Robertson
Last weekend against the Cowboys, the Vikings looked the best they have in every aspect of the game. But can they continue to play at that level when they go on the road? As we know, the road has not been kind to the Viking defense, which gives up nine points more on the road than at home and struggles to win the turnover battle. And Sunday, the high-octane offense of the Saints will challenge the Vikings defense to the max. Without the benefit of the hometown crowd helping the defensive line get off the ball, the Vikings’ secondary gets exposed and the yards and points begin to mount.
The Vikings were undefeated at home but went 4-4 on the road this season with wins in Detroit, Cleveland, St Louis and Green Bay. Other than the Packers, they have not had an impressive win on the road. In their four losses -- against the Cardinals, Bears, Steelers and Panthers -- the Vikings allowed 11 touchdown passes and had only one interception, and in three of the four games, the opposing quarterback had a passer rating over 100.0. With the exception of the Cardinals, this weekend the Vikings will face the best and most versatile offense they’ve seen all year.
The Saints are like a good basketball team (not like my 76ers) that can create mismatches and force a defense to show its hand with its pre-snap look. The Saints are not a west coast offense; they are a multiple offense that can attack a defense in many ways. Their skill level is far better than the Vikings’ skill level in the secondary, so unless the Vikings can rush quarterback Drew Brees the same way the Cowboys did, he’ll shred their secondary.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings are very good when they’re attacking with their passing game. The key to the Vikings winning the game will not be running back Adrian Peterson establishing the run, but rather the arm of 40-year-old Brett Favre. The Vikings’ offensive line has limitations in the run game, mostly on the right side where rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt can’t cut off the back side, so running the ball to their left is a challenge. Loadholt lacks football quickness to prevent a down-the-line player, and if the edge is set, the back side closes down. As a result, the Vikings are mostly a right-handed run team, which helps the defense game plan. Now, this is not to imply that Peterson can’t break off a long run, but he’ll have to do it more on his own than a play being perfectly blocked in front of him. The way the Vikings can win the game is to establish the pass, then feed Peterson the ball in the run game.
From my viewpoint, this will be a good offensive game if the Vikings can handle the crowd noise and not allow the Saints’ blitz package to force them into making mistakes. For the Vikings to win the game, they must be able to make the right adjustments during the game once they determine exactly what defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has in mind for them. Running blitzes is not a random thing, as good defensive coaches know more about pass protections than any offensive coach. So once Williams shows his hand, the Vikings must have answers – yes, plural -- to handle the scheme devised by Williams, who will have more than one way to attack Minnesota’s protections.
Williams will double wide receiver Sidney Rice all over the field as he’s done recently against other top wideouts and force Favre to throw the ball somewhere else to disrupt the rhythm of the Vikings’ passing game. The goal of the Saints defense will be to disrupt the rhythm of the passing game and pressure Favre, which will be helped by the crowd noise inside the Superdome. For the Saints to win, the “Who Dat” nation will have to be loud for 60 minutes.
So, who do I like? I think it will be a great game, but I’m going with Brees and the Saints. Favre will need to play very well, and I’m sure he will, but the Vikings’ lack of talent in the secondary against the best offense in football is too much to ignore. For me, the combination of the talented Saints offense and the inability of the Vikings to play good defense on the road makes them my pick.
Enjoy the games.
One more thing. I love the Jets’ cockiness, but selling championship shirts and hats before the game is ridiculous and might come back to haunt them. How can they let this happen?
I’m sure the Colts have their locker room plastered with this material. This alone might make me reconsider my pick. Was that your idea, Yahoo Dave?
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For an early look at some 2010 NFL free agents, check out this article from Bleacher Report.