I'm really, really, really, really excited for tomorrow's season opener. Like "Bob Costas in BASEketball" excited.
Now that, my friends, is excited. But judging from all the posts I've read between here and our friends over at Canal Street Chronicles, most of you guys are even above the Costas level. Probably more like if BASEketball Costas was bitten by a rabid dog. RABIES COSTAS EXCITED!
In the days leading up to the 2010 NFL season, there has been enough smack talk between the fans and players of Minnesota and New Orleans to make Gary Payton blush. There have been about 5,000 variations of the following argument throughout the blogosphere during the last few weeks:
VIKINGS FAN: "Hey dere you goshdarn Saints, we're gonna head down dere to dat ol' swamp of yers and get some revenge fer alla dem cheap shots you put on our guy Brett Ferrrve! AP's gonna make hot dish outta dat overrated defense of yers, you betcha!"
SAINTS FAN: "Y'all think y'all Vikings can juss come down hyah to da Bayou and beat da champs in N'awlins?! Well lemme juss tell y'all one thing! ...
Now I'm all about passion and giving the other team some crap--just read one of my posts. I have truly enjoyed reading what has been written by us fans and what has been said by the players leading up to the game. (Except maybe for Darren Sharper. Dude, you aren't even playing tomorrow--if you can't back it up, shut it up.) But let me state something loud and clear before we get started:
No matter what happens on Thursday night, it will not be revenge for the NFC Championship Game, nor will it justify the Saints' victory in January.
Let me explain why.
Would it be sweet to start the 2010 season by beating the defending Super Bowl champs and winning where our season ended last year? Abso-friggin'-lutely. But don't you dare call it "revenge". Winning in Week 1 is nowhere near as important as winning in Week 20, no matter what the circumstances are. It would be like punching someone in the face six months after he stole a winning lottery ticket from you and blew it all on a crazy weekend in Vegas. It might feel really good, but it won't bring your money back.
Likewise, if the Saints prevail tomorrow night, it won't somehow further justify the skin-of-their-teeth victory seven and a half months ago. Even if the Saints dominate the entire game, we still know that the 2009 Minnesota Vikings knocked the 2009 Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs. Not the Saints.
So keep the smack talk coming, but make sure it's only about the 2010 season. Last year was last year regardless of who wins. Let's leave the past where it is and take a look at how the Vikes and Saints match up this time around.
For those who were unaware, I got married a couple weeks ago and then went on a week-long honeymoon to Jamaica. It was amazing, but it also meant no phone or internet for over a week. I caught a couple glimpses of ESPN, but they prefer Serie A soccer to SportsCenter in that part of the world. So imagine my surprise when half of our receiving corps had changed when I returned!
Sidney Rice: out for at least six weeks. Darius Reynaud: jettisoned to the Giants along with Sage Rosenfels. (Just so I'm on the record: I wanted Rosencopter and Joe Webb as Favre's backups. The T-Jax ship sailed for me after the playoff loss to the Eagles two seasons ago.) Greg Camarillo: the poor man's Wes Welker is now a Viking! Javon Walker: now a Viki--oh wait never mind. Percy Harvin: relatively healthy! (My last article before I left had him leaving practice in an ambulance.) Being without Rice is going to suck all kinds of suck without a doubt. But I think Minnesota will be OK here, especially this week. The Sharper-less secondary should be a point of attack for the Purple all night.
However, I do have two major areas of concern going into the game. The first one is pretty obvious: our secondary. Minnesota has only three completely healthy cornerbacks, which most likely has Drew Brees and his plethora of offensive weapons thinking they took a Levitra about four hours ago and might have to consult their physicians. I love that Cedric Griffin is trying to play, but I hope the Vikings' coaching staff is smart about playing him. Like I said, this is a big game, but it's not NFC Championship big. The Vikings' front seven needs to make Brees as uncomfortable as possible to keep the Saints from putting up pinball numbers on their depleted secondary.
I'm also worried about the offensive line. Bryant McKinnie and company simply must have a better season in 2010--if they don't, they'll need a giant spatula to scrape Favre off the turf by the second quarter. While there were plenty of cheap shots by Saints defenders last time around, the bottom line is that they got to Favre way too often. I know Brett hasn't missed a game since around the time when the Louisiana Purchase was signed, but let's not tempt fate here--the dude's like, really old and stuff. (See, Dan Hampton? You can make a bad Louisiana joke without referring to a hurricane!) The O-line also needs to make sure they open up some holes for AP--you know, the whole "keep Brees off the field with clock control" spiel.
But let's not forget about the positives the Vikes are bringing to the table--they're bringing back nearly the exact same team that was thisclose to the Super Bowl last year. Throw in a healthy E.J. Henderson and the fact that AP is determined to pull a Keyser Soze on the NFL this season to remind everyone that he's still the best player on the planet, and I like our chances no matter who we're playing.
In the end, I see a close, high-scoring affair between two of the NFL's best teams--you can't find a better game to kick off the 2010 season. Time to get RABIES COSTAS EXCITED and watch the Purple start the year in style!
Prediction: Vikings 34, Saints 30
And since I had so much fun with it last year, I'm bringing back my weekly picks for the rest of the NFL games (home teams in ALL CAPS):
Dolphins over BILLS: Buffalo is pretty stacked at running back with the addition of C.J. Spiller. But what's the opposite of stacked? Level? Flattened? Well whatever it is, the Bills are "flattened" at every other position. I see Brandon Marshall starting his big debut season with Miami right away against the Bills.
TITANS over Raiders: My suicide pool pick for Week 1. Oakland made the biggest addition by subtraction in the NFL by cutting JaPurple Drank in the offseason. That doesn't mean I'm dumb enough to pick them here.
GIANTS over Panthers: I think both teams will improve this year, but it will take Carolina wide receivers a while to adjust to balls that are actually thrown to them.
Browns over BUCCANEERS: Why do I get the feeling that this game might determine the #1 draft pick in 2011?
TEXANS over Colts: I'm picking the upset here just because Houston is treating this game like their Super Bowl. If they do pull it off, the annual Texans Playoff Bandwagon will reach record numbers. But of course we'll all look back and laugh about it in Week 17 when Houston is barely missing the playoffs and the Colts are resting players again.
BEARS over Lions: Let the battle for third place in the NFC North begin!
49ers over SEAHAWKS: Quick, name a big-time impact player on Seattle's roster. Exactly.
Packers over EAGLES: My "I really wish both teams could lose" game of the week. I hate to say it, but that Packers offense is going to put up a ton of points this year.
Cowboys over REDSKINS: Reggie Bush dates a Kardashian, wins the Super Bowl. Lamar Odom marries a Kardashian, wins the NBA title. If Dallas wins it all this year thanks to Miles Austin dating a Kardashian, I will make it my life's mission to hook AP and Kourtney up.
Ravens over JETS: Definitely the AFC game of the week. I'm picking Baltimore only because I want to see how much Jets fans will freak out and blame management for the Darrelle Revis holdout after going 0-1.
Chargers over CHIEFS: Hey San Diego--wanna trade divisions with us?
2010 so far: 0-0
Last year: 175-81