Vikings have only a prayer in NFC Title game

As some readers may know, I grew up a Viking fan. While my fandom has been diminished probably 70% over the last 10 years due to the nature of my business, there is still some left, and I was pretty amped up for this past weekend’s Divisional game against the Cowboys. Needless to say, I was pleased with the results, and now I’m heading to New Orleans this weekend to see the NFC title game in person. I’m obviously going for the big game, but I must admit the food and the partying down in the Big Easy is also a major attraction. If this game was in Atlanta, for example, I wouldn’t be going. So even if the Vikings lose, I’m going to be okay with the trip.

I’m usually pretty good picking playoff games, but this year my clarity in the post-season has not been very good. I picked the Cowboys to beat my Vikings last weekend, for example. However, there’s no better way to gain clarity for an NFL matchup then to study coaches tape, and that’s exactly what I did yesterday with the rest of the FantasyGuru.com guys at NFL Films.

Now, we didn’t see a ton of Viking and Saint game film, but I did observe the Viking and Saint offense with our Greg Cosell along with Ron Jaworski and former Lion GM Matt Millen, and we talked about the game a lot. Cosell’s obviously the man, and I’ve known Jaws for 10 years, and he’s fantastic, but Millen was awesome as well. I really didn’t know what to expect when he walked into the (small) room, but we all loved the guy, and he shared some great stories. He was very funny, and I guess because we were in that exclusive company, he curiously listened to our points and respected our opinions. In addition to these three great football minds, also in the room and watching game film with us all day was an NFL defensive coach, and he was also incredibly informative.

And basically, the consensus in the room was that the Vikings don’t have much of a chance winning the game.

I can totally understand that opinion, and here are some tidbits, most of them picked up yesterday, that would support that notion.

  • As impressive as the victory was against Dallas, the Vikings really made only three plays. Otherwise, they still didn’t run well at all and the Cowboy defense played very well. They whipped them up front, and they covered very well on the back end. The Vikings won the game on defense, and there’s a massive difference between Tony Romo and Drew Brees.
  • It’s not a huge problem this week against an average Saint defensive front and pass rush, but it certainly doesn’t help: the Viking OL and blocking up front is brutal. Let’s start with the TEs because they were horrendous against the Cowboys. Starter Vishante Shiancoe has never been known as a good blocker, and that reputation was not helped this past weekend. But it was backup Jeff Dugan who really struggled. He was terrible and caused several plays to get totally shut down. OLB Anthony Spencer blew up play after play this past Sunday, due mainly to the terrible blocking on the right side of the Viking line, including RT Phil Loadholt. TE/H-back Jim Kleinsasser was a little better and had some good blocks, but he also screwed up a few times as well. The good news is that LT Bryant McKinnie did play well, but LG Steve Hutchinson is average at best, and C John Sullivan is also mediocre and gets pushed around easily.

  • Here’s the problem with that OL: Minnesota can certainly win on the legs of RB Adrian Peterson, but I just can’t see a dominating performance behind that line. Peterson should have a good game, and the Saints can definitely be run on, but based on what they showed all season and watching this OL in action via the coaches tape, I find it hard to believe that Peterson will get to the second level often enough to come through with a huge game. The guy’s nickname is “All Day” and if they can give him 25-30 carries they’d have a real shot, but it’s been painful watching him run behind this mediocre (at best) line all year. And in Week 19 of the season, I just can’t see him dominating like the Vikings need him to if they’re to pull this one out.

  • The loss of LB E.J. Henderson is absolutely paramount. If I had to name one 4-3 MLB who would best defend the Saints and their videogame offense, I’d chose Henderson, who has excellent speed and is a major playmaker. His replacement, Jasper Brinkley, is a MAJOR liability against the Saints. He’s lost in coverage and while he can be stout against the run, he overruns plays and is simply not ready or good enough to handle this incredible responsibility. The Vikes screwed up not finding a vet who can play in the middle in the event Henderson suffered a serious injury.

  • It’s true you can never discount the Favre factor, but the Saint secondary can handle his wideouts, especially Bernard Berrian, who simply isn’t a very good player. He’s a one-trick pony, so while you can never rule out a big play, I have little confidence in him. Early in the season, the Saints had arguably the best CB tandem in the NFC, and corners Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer are back, plus Darren Sharper, a Viking in 2008, is a major asset for the Saints.

  • The Saints will look to spread the Viking secondary out, and unless the Viking pass rush dominates again, Brees should carve them up. Brinkley is a major problem in coverage, and the Viking safeties are not good at all in coverage. Their corners played well last week, but it’s not a good group overall, and it’s not a deep group. You have to give the Viking DL a chance to harass Brees, who does have serious protection issues on the edges (especially the left side), but it’s such an advantage for their offense playing in the raucous Superdome, and it’s a disadvantage for the Viking DL. That advantage may ultimately offset the advantage the Viking D-Line has against the Saint OL. Speaking of that D-Line, while they were great last week, they didn’t have a great year.

Obviously, it’s NFL football and anything can happen. But based on what I’ve seen from these two teams all year, the Vikings need to play a perfect game, and the Saints need to slip up at least a few times.

I’m not seeing it, and I really hope I’m wrong.

Category: Fantasy Football

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8 Responses

  1. PackFan says:

    Matt Millen is a curious fellow. I actually don’t mind listening to his commentary, and from your accolades … it would appear as though you think he understands football. So – what the heck happened to him in Detroit? I don’t understand the disconnect.

  2. John Hansen says:

    That’s a good point, but there could have been other factors involved. It’s not like a GM is going to 100% make every single decision. Millen doesn’t try to sweep is poor tenure in Detroit under the rug, in fact the opposite is true. Kind of like me and Kevin Jones in 2005. I just can’t stop bringing it up.

  3. TJ says:

    A healthy Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter makes a huge difference in the game. I don’t think this is being talked about enough.

  4. nate says:

    “Speaking of that D-Line, while they were great last week, they didn’t have a great year.”

    They led the league in sacks. That’s pretty good, right?

    I’m a Vikings fan too and I’m pretty nervous about this game, but I’m sort of shocked at how down you are on the Vikes. You make it sound like it’s a total mismatch in favor of the Saints.

    The one thing I definitely agree with you on is that the Vikings run blocking is horrendous. They open no holes for Peterson. However, their pass protection has been really solid.

    I’m usually a pretty pessimistic Vikings fan, but I actually think we match up pretty well with the Saints. We’ll see I guess.

  5. John Hansen says:

    I know, Nate, but they did get 14 against the Packers, which really helped their numbers. They were good this year, for sure, but you have to agree they disappointed based on the realistically high expectations. Did Kevin Williams even play half their games?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings gave them a really good game. After all, they are a quality team, obviously. But sadly, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints dropped 40+ on them and won by 15+

  6. JOOCE says:

    Have you been to a game at the Superdome yet?

    I travelled down to New Orleans for that awesome MNF game, Saints at Falcons on Nov 2.

    It was also Halloween weekend in New Orleans! Wow, what an awesome weekend! Amazing partying, amazing food! Do not miss getting a meal at Coop’s Place. It is a must.

    Have a great weekend!

  7. John Hansen says:

    I’ve been to NO but not a game. I am fully expecting it to be the wildest thing I’ve ever seen at an NFL stadium, and I’ve been to some big games.

  8. Stretch says:

    John,

    The Vikings prayer maybe answer. Here’s why.

    This game will come down to in my opinion (D.Sharper and Saints DST) vs. (A.Peterson and the Vikings short passing game with X-factor P.Harvin). When I watch the Saints DST they don’t tackle well at all or do not want to tackle in the run game. D.Sharper wants to play center field and pick off passes. That won’t happen this game. B.Favre is a season veteran. He will make J.Vilma which is playing out position at MLB and D.Sharper put on their big boy pads. I don’t think either one of them want to see A.Peterson coming down hill(i.e T.Hightower).

    But I still have to be a realist. We all know the Saints will score points. Its just how many. If the score in the 20s the Vikes win easily because of ball control offense. If the score is the 30s that means it was a shootout and Saints win going away.

    But my gut feeling, that this game will be shorten alot with Saints offense watching from the sidelines. D.Williams RB ran all over the Saints at the Superdome in Week 9. I think the Vikes will seriously look at that coaches tape of that gane to see how the Carolina should’ve won but lost because of costly turnovers.

    I also have to remind myself that these teams are at the top as far as losing franchises. Somebody has to win this game. It might as well be the Vikings.

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