It…is…almost…time. The 2010 season kicks off tomorrow. Not sure if you guys knew that or not. The Vikings return to the scene of their latest crushing defeat, looking not for revenge. But this game isn’t even about getting even. This is the regular season and that was for the Super Bowl. No, what this game is about, however, is shutting up the Saints and their fans for one week, and laying a beatdown on them that propels the Vikings into the 2010 season with a bang, and a nice big cup of Shut The Hell Up to the rest of the NFL. I’m sick of hearing about Favre, his ankle, Schism II, TJ v. Sage, the Packers, the Cowboys, the Jets, and yes, the Saints. Especially the Saints. Hopefully, on Friday morning, the rest of the world will wake up and realize something we already know—the Minnesota Vikings are going to rip through the Saints and the NFL in 2010 like Hulk Hogan used to go through yellow t-shirts, and they aren’t stopping until they win in Dallas. In February. No funny videos, no snappy comments, no jokes after the jump, just a preview, because I want the Vikings to kick the ever loving piss out of New Orleans and set the tone for 2010.
Vikings Offensive Line V. Saints Defensive Line. If John Sullivan starts, I’m okay with this matchup. If Jon Cooper starts, I’m unsettled. In the NFC Championship, the Vikings offensive line allowed Favre to get hit, but he had time to throw for over 300 yards, and Adrian Peterson ran for over 120. Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, and (hopefully) Sullivan are healthy, and that will make all the difference this time around. I fully expect the Vikes to try and control the clock, establish the run, and then take advantage of some short and intermediate personnel advantages in the passing game.
Brett Favre/Receivers V. Saints Secondary. The Saints have a problem with injuries in their secondary and linebacking corps, and I feel it is an advantage the Vikings will exploit all night long. Yes, Sidney Rice is out, but Bernard Berrian had a huge game last time around, and I expect him to again. My darkhorse fantasy player of the week is Greg Camarillo. He doesn’t drop passes, is excellent at moving the chains, and gets open in space. I expect him to do that a lot on Thursday. Oh yeah, and Percy Harvin is lurking, healthy. Ignore him at your peril. With their linebacking corps depleted, I can see Visanthe Shiancoe and/or who ever the running back is out of the backfield break a few big gains. Gregg Williams will throw a lot of things at the Vikings, but when he blitzed last year, the Saints paid for it. They will again.
Vikings Defensive Line V. Saints Offensive Line. The Saints didn’t run the ball particularly well last time out,and with the best defensive line in football, I would expect the same this game. The only critique I had for the line the last game was not enough pressure, which is a must. Hit Brees hard, hit him early, and don’t call off the dogs until until the final gun. Bring the pain, boys, bring the pain. The Vikes best chance is to still make the Saints one-dimensional, even with Brees and his stable of talented wideouts. If they can eliminate the run as an effective weapon, then all Allen and company need to do is pin back their ears and go all Purple People Eaters ‘Let’s Meet At the Quarterback’ on them. There isn’t a running back on the Saints roster that needs to be specifically game planned for, but the Vikes must make Brees uncomfortable in the pocket.
Drew Brees/Receivers V. Vikings Secondary. The reason the Vikings need to pressure Brees is because the secondary is thin. Antoine Winfield is healthy, but after that CB is a crapshoot, but probably only for this week. Cedric Griffin might play, which would be amazing, but his effectiveness is a legitimate concern. Husain Abdullah looks like he’ll start at safety, which is odd because he hasn’t started at safety during the pre-season. He might also rotate into the nickel role, and practice squad member Marcus Sherels could be put on the active roster for Thursday’s game. This looks like the only decided advantage the Saints have on the Vikings, but it can be negated with a serious pass rush.
Special Teams: I will go to my grave thinking that Ryan Longwell would’ve made that 55 yarder, and if it comes down to one kick to win, I’ll take my chances with him. It looks like Bernard Berrian will return punts, and Harvin will return kicks. I like that setup as well.
Prediction: Over at CSC, I called a Vikes win 31-27. I’m sticking by this prediction, and if the Vikes don’t cough up the ball, it could be by a decidedly bigger margin.
And then everyone doubting this team can shut…their…piehole.