Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.
Loosely translated, that phrase means "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." In Dante's Divine Comedy, that phrase is part of the verses that are inscribed above the gates of hell. It also describes the feeling that many of us have concerning our favorite football team going into the game that's going to kick off in about three hours at the Metrodome between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints are on a bit of a roll coming into this one, ladies and gentlemen. They have the third-highest rated quarterback in the National Football League in Drew Brees, a guy that hasn't thrown an interception in about a month. We will attempt to counter that with a defense that hasn't intercepted a pass in over two months, and is trying to avoid a post-merger record for that sort of futility. Only one team in the National Football League has scored more points this season than the Saints. . .only two teams in the National Football League this season have allowed more points than the Vikings. On paper, it looks like it should be an absolute rout, even though the Saints come into this one as only a six-point favorites for reasons I'm not really sure of.
But, as we all know, these things aren't played on paper by guys pushing pencils. They're played by football players in football stadiums in front of football fans. And, at the risk of providing a bit of false hope to everyone out there. . .because I think this one is still going to get ugly for our favorite team. . .there are a couple of glimmers of it out there.
The Saints have just three losses this season, and all three of them have come on the road, including a loss to the team that we're currently duking it out for the second overall pick in the draft with, the St. Louis Rams. While the Saints have outscored their opponents at home by 125 points this season, they have actually been outscored by nine points on the road. (Keep in mind, that home differential includes a 62-7 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts.) They don't score as much on the road, they give up more sacks on the road, and they're generally less impressive on the road than they are at the Superdome.
In the four road games they've won, their average margin of victory is six points. . .and in one of those, they got a big assist from Atlanta Falcons' head coach Mike Smith, who decided to go for it on 4th and less than a yard from his own 30-yard line in overtime. (The Saints stopped the Falcons, got the ball back, and kicked the easy field goal for the win.) The Saints are one of the NFL's best teams, to be sure, but they're playing in Minnesota's house for the first time since 2005, and they are more vulnerable there than they would be if the Vikings were making another trip to New Orleans.
I hearken back to the last time I felt this badly about the Vikings' chances going into a football game. . .it was about a year ago. The Vikings were coming off of a tough loss, Adrian Peterson was coming back from an injury, and we were matched up against an opponent that came into the game on a pretty substantial roll that was supposed to absolutely flatten them en route to a run at the Super Bowl. I put up the most lopsided prediction for a Vikings' loss in the history of the site. For crying out loud, we were playing on a Tuesday night. Who the heck plays NFL football games on Tuesday nights?
Well, that night, the Minnesota Vikings did. . .and the Minnesota Vikings won. By double digits. To this day, I'm not sure how, but it was awesome to watch (as you can see if you look back through the game threads from that night).
I have the same feeling going into this afternoon's game. I don't expect the Vikings to win. . .I don't expect it to even be close. But that one off-chance? That one little shot?
That's why we watch and listen to this to begin with, folks.
Game Thread will be up in about an hour and a half. I hope to see a lot of you there.