Uh, hello? Is this thing on? Before I delve into my first story, I want to say thanks to Gonzo, Anthony, and Eric for letting me become a contributing writer. I wanted to get my first story up fast, for a couple of reasons. One, it's a great time to be a Vikings fan, and I'm thrilled to be part of the best Vikings community on the Internet. Two, and most importantly, the bender that Anthony, Gonzo, and Eric are on will wear off eventually, and they'll wake up with one bad ass hangover, a tiger in the bathroom, and then they'll realize they've given the DN version of Alan the keys to the website. So, let's get on with it, before they come to their senses, shall we?
One thing I've noticed about this post-season, other than the fact that most of these games have been non-competitive, is how absolutely certain the 'experts' have been about the outcomes of the games. Dallas has momentum, so they're going to the Super Bowl. What? 34-3? Really? To the Vikings? New Orleans has lost three straight, so they are SO done, because the
St Louis Arizona Cardinals are en fuego, baby! 45-14? Yeah, I told you the Cards would roll. New Orleans won? Shut UP! Seriously?
And the thing is, we tend to believe these absolutes, unless it's our team that's getting absolutely blasted. The great thing about football is that once you get to the post season, absolutes mean absolutely bupkis. Let's look at some absolutely certain, undeniable facts as the 2009 playoffs got under way:
1. the Dallas Cowboys were the Greatest Team in the History of The World and WIll Reign Forever in The House of Jerry. Amen.
2. New Orleans and Indianapolis would make quick exits from the playoffs because they took their foot off the pedal. Uh, yeah. Baltimore and Arizona were hit and run victims this past weekend.
3. The Cincinnati Bengals are a team of frauds. Oh wait, that one was actually true.
When you get to Championship Weekend, two things matter: Talent, mismatches, and homefield. Wait, that's three. Okay, THREE things matter. And turnovers. FOUR, four things matter.
Talent: Generally, the team with the better talent wins the game. If you're a 9-7 #6 seed, you have a better chance of going to the Super Bowl than a Republican does of being elected senator in Massachussetts. Huh? Shut the hell up. In Massachussetts? A Republican?!?! Anyways, how do you measure talent? If it's Pro Bowl players, then you would give the edge to the Vikings. If you measure team statistics, it's pretty much a push. If you measure how the talent matches up, I think you give the edge to the Vikings. I think the Vikes offense is better than the Saints defense. I also think the Vikes defensive line is better than the Saints offensive line, and therefore they can disrupt the Saints passing game and tempo.
Mismatches: The biggest mismatch on the field this past Sunday was Minnesota's defensive line against Dallas' offensive line. They were on Tony Romo like a fat man at a buffet from almost the first play, and didn't let up until they had to loosen their belt buckle for fear of intestinal stomach rupture. I think Dallas' offensive line is better than what New Orleans has to offer, especially at tackle. I think this is the biggest mismatch on the field, and one the VIkings must exploit if they are to win. If they don't, New Orleans will be able to take advantage of the second biggest mismatch on the field: Drew Brees against the Vikings secondary. It's not that the Vikings are void of talent, but if you let a guy like Brees get comfortable in the pocket and go through his progressions, he will shred the Vikings.
Homefield: Since the 1998 NFC Championship game, the home team is 7-4. That means it's nice to play at home, but it's not a deal breaker for going to the Super Bowl. A warm weather Tampa team went to Philadelphia and handled a very good Eagles team, and in 1998 a heavily favored 15-1 team with homefield advantage...never mind. Still too soon for me.
Turnovers: If you lose the turnover battle, you're more than likely going to lose the game. You can't cough it up and expect to win, especially on the road.
So can the Vikings win Sunday? In a word, absolutely.