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Five questions about the Minnesota Vikings/New Orleans Saints match-up...fighting words

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Who Dat Nation, we are only a little over one day away from the season opener of the 2010 NFL season. And unlike a few years ago when the New Orleans Saints were facing the defending champions; this time they ...

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Old 09-08-2010, 09:43 AM   #1
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Five questions about the Minnesota Vikings/New Orleans Saints match-up...fighting words

Who Dat Nation, we are only a little over one day away from the season opener of the 2010 NFL season. And unlike a few years ago when the New Orleans Saints were facing the defending champions; this time they are the defending Super Bowl champions.

A rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game will see the Minnesota Vikings come into town to face the Saints on the night when the Super Bowl banner will be unveiled in the Superdome. Memories of the Tracy Porter interception, the Adrian Peterson fumbles, and the winning kick sailing through the uprights off of the foot of Garrett Hartley will all come flooding back. Still, this is a new season and a new game that needs to be won.

A lot will be the same, including the Vikings' quarterback, but things are going to start on an even playing field and at 0-0.

Minnesota Vikings Examiner Joe Oberle and myself traded questions with one another so that we can give our opinions on things to come for the big game and throughout the season. Below you will see his answers to my questions and you can check out my answers to his by clicking on the links in this article.

You can check out my answers to his questions here in Speaking With The Enemy.

In case you hadn't guessed, I don't think that Joe is really caught up in the fact that the Saints are Super Bowl champions, but that they are just another team ready to get sucked in by the Super Bowl winner hangover we have seen in past years. Make sure you visit his page and let him know what the Who Dat Nation has to say, but first let's check out what he has to say.

Danny Cox: Do you believe that the hits made by Gregg Williams' instructed defense on Brett Favre were "dirty" and intended to injure the quarterback?

Joe Oberle: Hmmmm, the most talked about subject since the NFC Championship game (NFCCG). Dirty? What's dirty in a game where at the bottom of a pile scrambling for a loose ball, players often grab a few but don't necessarily come up with the football.

Here's what I believe:

The Saints defense was instructed by their coach to get to the quarterback and hit him as hard as they can. If they take a penalty, so be it. It will make the quarterback think twice about hanging onto the ball next time. That's football (as Favre has stated). I am sure it happens in every locker room.

If they can knock him out of the game, all the better, the Saints figured, because they knew Favre was the Vikings offense's greatest asset. Now to get someone out of the game you usually have to injure them. And to get Favre out of a game, you generally have to knock him unconscious, because he is a gamer. Was there intent to injure? It was pretty brutal. But only the Saints know for sure.

That said, there is a line that can be crossed. And if the line is crossed, the referees are there to penalize it--no matter how many times it occurs. But the refs dropped the ball in the NFCCG. They penalized the Saints twice for late hits (and fined them $25,000), but Favre was hit 16 times, and others were illegal--particularly on the play when Favre threw his first interception (the Vikings were marching and that was a game changer).

Ultimately, I think if you do it within the rules, hit him as often as you want. It's part of the game. If it is illegal, call the penalty. If you don't like it, than stop the other team from doing it--there's no mercy rule in the NFL.

And if it is in your game plan to take the other team's best player out, and your defensive coach announces it to the world and it appears to some that you may have gotten away with some questionable shots, than accept the reputation and ridicule that goes along with that. The team has earned it.

DC: The defense of the Vikings was a huge factor in their success last year, do you think they have improved at all this season or can at least hold up as they did last season?

JO: I do think they are improved and it mostly has to do with health. Hard hitting cornerback Antoine Winfield is back and healthy after playing only a handful of games early last season without injury; E.J. Henderson returns (remarkably) after breaking his femur late in the season, while his replacement Jasper Brinkley adds depth at linebacker; the Vikings have added rookie corner Chris Cook, who was going to start until he tore the meniscus in his knee during the preseason--when he returns in a couple weeks, the pass defense improves; and a very deep defensive line remains intact to once again stifle the run and wreak havoc in opponents' backfields.

Can they hold up? Certainly. Age is a concern with 39-year-old Pat Williams on the defensive line, but there are players considered good enough to start on other teams waiting to spell him. Cedric Griffin is coming back from a torn ACL in the NFCCG and it remains to be seen if he will get on the field Thursday night, and who knows if Henderson's leg will hold up--some thought the injury was career threatening. But then that is the question each team faces every season--will their starters stay healthy? Outside of cornerback, which is a little thin until Cook and Griffin return, the Vikings defense is deep enough for the long run.

DC: Adrian Peterson is quite possibly one of the top two running backs in the league, but he has the fumbling issue. Has that been corrected for this season?

JO: I think the phrase you were looking for is "quite possibly the top running back in the league"--as far as being one of the top two, there is no doubt. His numbers bear that out. (I think he regains number one status when Chris Johnson gets a season of defenses keying on him as the top threat in the Tennessee offense.)

The Vikings have to go back to more reliance on AP this season. If not only to take pressure off the old man's arm, but also to keep him from taking so many hits. They need AP to be able to protect Favre on third down and to catch more passes out of the backfield. And they also need him to protect the ball in his own hands.

Peterson has studied film on the fumbling issue and made it an offseason priority. He has vowed to do better, but unfortunately he is a marked man, and the clawing and tackling of the ball in his hands will only increase. But he is strong, aware of the situation and has worked to eliminate the problem. AP is a very determined and hard working individual--I think you will see improvement in this area for him this season.

DC: Is there any way that Brett Favre and Brad Childress can actually co-exist for another season?

JO: Absolutely. They have already done it for one season and made the choice to team up again for another one. It was Childress who first made all the entreaties to Favre to come back and he took the trips to Hattiesburg to take Favre's temperature. And it was Childress who sent his three captains to Mississippi to bring him back.

Childress knows the value of Favre to his team. He knows what it's like to coach him, and he knows how great a field general Favre remains. Were there disagreements last season on what plays to call? Absolutely. Will there be more this season? As the pressure mounts, and the stakes increase, it will definitely happen again. Is it a bad problem to have? No.

When two people (three if you include offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) work that hard and know that much about the game and their opponents, ultimately, you find the right way to do things. Another season together can only help them understand each other more and get on the same page together. It couldn't have been too bad for them last season, or it would have been Favre getting shipped back to New York instead of Sage Rosenfels.

DC: Thursday's season opener is one of the most anticipated games in recent memory...how do you feel the tempo of the game will be and what is your ultimate prediction?

JO: I see the two teams picking up right where they left off last January. The pace will be quick, the ball will be flying and the teams will be racing up and down the field like a video game. It's great that the two teams meet now rather than midseason. Although I would prefer the Vikings, after the uneven preseason they've had, to be afforded more time to get their legs under them, I like the marquee nature of this matchup. This is a great way to kick off the season with how that game ended up last year.

The Vikings will be pumped up, but if they come out slow offensively like they did against Cleveland last season, it will be a long, loud game in the Superdome for the Purple. Emotion will carry the Vikings a long way, but they have to execute against a very good team eager to defend their title and prove to all doubters that the better team won last season.

That said, I believe the Vikings defense is ready. They are improved and have something to prove themselves. They will keep the Vikings in the game (as they will do all season long) and if the Vikings offensive line can protect Favre and open some holes for Peterson, they will do enough to beat the Saints this time.

If history is any indicator, every time the Vikings lost a Super Bowl and then played a rematch against that team the following season, they won the game. The NFC Championship game was their Super Bowl last season, so they will enact some revenge on Thursday night in New Orleans.

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Well then, will revenge be exacted or will Brett Favre regret coming back to seek out a victory against the team that took away his Super Bowl chance? It's going to be a battle. A loud, rambunctious, hard-fought, blood-thirsty, and talent-riddled battle for NFC supremacy...and that's only in the first game of the season.

Check back tomorrow for my full game preview and what to watch for as the New Orleans Saints prepared to duke it out with the Minnesota Vikings. And don't forget to check out all of my answers to Joe's questions in Speaking With The Enemy.


Is it really a rematch



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