ESPN Scout's Inc analysis
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Vikings-Saints matchup.
1. Handle the crowd and the hype: New Orleans is still celebrating its first Super Bowl title and the dome is going to be extremely loud. It really couldn't be a worse environment to visit, especially considering every NFL eye in America will be focused on this game. Also not working in Minnesota's favor: The Vikings struggled on the road down the stretch last year.
2. Keep up early: Following along with the above observation, Minnesota simply cannot allow the quick-strike New Orleans offense to get rolling early in this game while it is adapting to the hostile road environment.
3. Lean on http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=10452: Run defense is perhaps the Saints' biggest weakness. This is especially true up the middle, as their defensive tackles are suspect. The Vikings would be wise to keep http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=112 under wraps to some degree and feature Peterson with the inside running game. Though there were obvious fumbling issues, Peterson did gash the Saints for 122 yards rushing and three touchdowns in January. The Saints might be without MLB http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=5537 (groin) for this contest, and though he is a better player against the pass than the run, his absence will be felt.
4. Figure out how to account for http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9588: Bush is as much wide receiver as he is running back. From a defensive personnel standpoint, Minnesota must figure out how to identify Bush. If they label him as a wide receiver, they will be shorthanded when he lines up in the backfield. The opposite is true if he is labeled as a running back, as then Bush can split out wide and find favorable matchups as a receiving option. That is Bush's true value.
5. Matchup to watch: Saints LT http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=10568 versus Vikings RDE http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=5651: This is the one-on-one matchup in which the Saints are weakest in this contest. Few players rush the passer as well as Allen, who not only is relentless and an excellent technician, but also has vastly underrated physical skills. Allen had 14.5 sacks last season. It would also be a mistake to forget about LDE http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9713, who is one of the more underrated players in the league.
6. Protect: The Saints have an excellent offensive line and http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=2580 is amazing at getting the ball out of his hands in a very timely manner. But the Vikings feature one of the best defensive fronts in the league. In protection, when looking at each individual matchup, the Saints are at a disadvantage.
7. Account for http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=12569: Harvin, who is entering his second season, is a phenomenal multidimensional weapon. With http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=10488 (hip) out of the lineup, Harvin could be ready to shine. The Saints have an exceptional secondary and will need to either match up http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=6391, their best cover man, on Harvin, or bracket him with two defenders. Harvin is also sure to line up in the backfield on occasion.
8. Create turnovers: Brett Favre was remarkable with his ball security during the 2009 regular season. But the Saints were equally remarkable in their ability to create turnovers last year. Not only that, they consistently turned those turnovers into defensive touchdowns. Favre threw two extremely costly interceptions when these teams last met, in the NFC Championship Game. The Saints also caused three fumbles in that game.
9. Spread the ball around: Brees is fantastic at using all of his weapons. His favorite receiver is the open receiver and few teams have the collective firepower that New Orleans can offer. The Saints also excel at using a very wide variety of personnel groupings and formations. This will be extremely tough for Minnesota's secondary to account for.
10. Matchup to watch: Vikings LT http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=3535 versus Saints RDE http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=5543: McKinnie is one of the most overrated players in the NFL. In fact, he is often a liability. He will need help against Smith (13 sacks in 2009). Smith is much shorter than McKinnie and should use McKinnie's height against him from a leverage perspective. Smith is also far more agile and has excellent edge speed. And Favre's ability to elude the rush might be compromised by his ailing ankle. McKinnie is going to need help.
New Orleans 35
I'll miss the game if I watch all of those vids!!!! Just sayin'
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