Readers of The Daily Norseman,
Since I've been a member of DN (and then for reasons only Chris knows, a contributing writer), every week this site has done a '5 Questions' segment with the opposing teams blog. Dave Cariello, the HMFIC (that stands for Head Mother Flogger In Charge...well, what did you think it meant, you dirty minded pervs?!) from Canal Street Chronicles and I kickoff Saints Week with our first '5 Segments' installment of the season. You can head over to Canal Street Chronicles and check out my answers to his questions.
My thanks to Dave, and let's get ready to watch the Norsemen kick the hell out of the Fleur-de-Lis!
Oh, one last thing. I really thought long and hard about a quasi-related video for this segment. It's kind of a thing I do for the Stock Market Report, but this is the first 5 Questions segment I've ever done (and probably the last after this hits the Interwebs and Gonzo sees it) and I really don't do a video segment for each story. But there was one song that kept rolling through my mind as I was typing this, and I couldn't resist. So, in my never ending quest to expand your musical minds and VIkings knowledge all at the same time may I present, for your enjoyment, 'City of New Orleans', by Arlo Guthrie. My questions and Dave's answers are after the jump:
1. First off, congratulations on your teams first Super Bowl title. The NFC South has been the most schizophrenic division in football since its inception. The team that was last in one year has come back to win the division the following year just about every season. So can we pencil in the Buccaneers for the division title and the Saints for the wildcard, or what can the Saints do to repeat?
I wouldn't pencil the Bucs in for anything other than a last place finish in the division. It's very true that the NFC South has consistently been a "worst-to-first" division but with the Saints now Super Bowl champions for the first time in their franchises history, I think it's safe to say we can throw history out the window. They've got nearly the same team they had last year so as long as the Saints stay focused and remain healthy, I would say they've got a very good chance at repeating as division champions.
2. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Saints are obviously the pre-season favorites to repeat in the division. Who do you feel will be your toughest competition in the NFC South, and in the conference overall?
Within the division it has got to be the Falcons and only the Falcons. They appear to be heading in the right direction and Matt Ryan seems like the real deal. They played the Saints tough last season and I expect beating them to become even more difficult this year. Look for Ryan to have a breakout season.
Staying within the conference, I'm definitely worried about the Green Bay Packers. They're a trendy pick among the media and I think there is good reason for that. They've got a high-scoring offense behind Aaron Rodgers that can put up a ton of points, much like the Saints. And, yes, I will admit that the Vikings are the third team on the list of NFC teams that worries me. Those should be your top three teams in the conference right there.
3. One of the strengths of the Saints last year was their secondary. With S Darren Sharper on the PUP, and Tracy Porter dealing with injuries throughout the pre-season, are you concerned with how the Saints secondary will match up with the Vikings receivers on Thursday?
Well, Tracy Porter has been missing practice time with injury but I fully expect him to play on Thursday night.
That being said, the only change in the Saints starting secondary from last year will be Malcolm Jenkins playing safety in place of Darren Sharper. I think the defense will miss those key interceptions that Sharper provided early last season but Jenkins seems to be transitioning fairly well and let's face it, he's a lot younger. Even if Sharper were playing, I'm not convinced he would be playing at the same level he did last year.
The other good news for the Saints secondary is that the Vikings are a little banged up in the wide receiver department, missing Sidney Rice and with only four receivers on the roster.
4. Keeping on the ‘nagging defensive injuries’ theme, starting linebacker Jonathan Vilma has a groin injury, starting OLB Jonathan Casillas was put on IR, and backup LB Clint Ingram is also on the PUP. Is Casillas being out a weakness the Vikings can exploit, and how concerned are you about depth at the LB position overall?
I would be lying if I said the talent and depth of the Saints linebacking corps wasn't a serious concern of mine.
After losing Scott Fujita in free agency, signing Clint Ingram in was the only real move the team made to help improve the unit this off-season and he's now out for the first six weeks. Nice work there.
Jonathan Casillas has been with the team since last year and was elevated to a starting role during training camp. Naturally, any season-ending injury to a starter is worrisome but Casillas hasn't proven much, especially during regular season play, so I can't speculate on how big of a loss it really is.
Not surprisingly, the team signed veteran linebacker Danny Clark - who was just released by the Texans - on Monday. He's got plenty of experience as a starter but very little with the Saints. Hopefully he's a quick fix for Thursday night. If not, Vikings fans can expect to see Jo-Lonn Dunbar and/or Stanley Arnoux fill in on the outside.
Also good to know is that Jonathan Vilma practiced on Sunday and is expected to play on Thursday night, though I am slightly nervous that it's a bit of a rush and that he won't be 100%.
5. When the Saints are firing on all cylinders, they’re almost impossible to stop. What do you feel is the most favorable offensive matchup the Saints have on the Vikings defense, and what are your keys to the game for the Saints?
The Saints have always been incredibly successful with Drew Brees, their stable of talented wide receivers and the way in which they spread the ball around. Given how good the Vikings are with their front four and the current concerns in their secondary (trade of Benny Sapp, Chris Cook injury), I think the Saints best chance of success will be dominating through the air.
On top of passing the ball efficiently, I think the Saints need to win the turnover battle, get a lot of pressure on Brett Favre and shut down Adrian Peterson. Simple, right?
Bonus: What's your prediction for the game?
I think the Saints match up well against the Vikings and the dropping of the Super Bowl banner before the Saints first ever game in the Superdome as champions will be too much. Saints win a close one, 38-35.