Turnovers kill Vikings as Saints advance to Miami

Excuse the borrowed analogy, but there’s no other way to describe what the Vikings did on Sunday night then to say that they shot themselves in the foot. (And repeatedly, might I add.)

The media is going to concentrate on Brett Favre’s interception in New Orleans territory with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings turned the ball over five times in their 31-28 loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game. Favre’s interception was a horrid mistake that only most rookies make, but the fact of the matter is that the blame cannot be pinned on just one person. And truth be told, even if Favre threw that pass 12 rows deep into the stands, there’s no guarantee that Ryan Longwell would have made a 50-plus yard attempt on the next play.

The Vikings screwed the pooch tonight – plain and simple. That’s not to take anything away from the Saints because Drew Brees and company deserve the right to play in Miami in two weeks, but Minnesota blew several golden opportunities to put more points on the board. A team can’t turn the ball over five times (it could have been seven had they not recovered two Adrian Peterson fumbles) and expect to win. They just can’t.

But what doomed the Vikings more than anything tonight was when they were flagged for having too many men in the huddle on that third and 10 play from the Saints’ 33-yard line. Had they not gotten that penalty, there’s a good chance that Brad Childress would have called something safer (even if it were a pass play) and therefore Favre probably wouldn’t have gotten picked off while trying to make a play. For all their mistakes on the night, that 5-yard penalty may have been the reason they’re not heading to Miami in two weeks.

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Edwards’ development has been vital for Vikings

NFL scouts say that it usually takes a defensive end three years to make an impact for their team. In the case of Ray Edwards, it took four years but the Vikings don’t mind.

After racking up 13 sacks in his first three seasons in the NFL, Edwards now has 11.5 sacks through 17 games this year. He gained national attention last Sunday by sacking Tony Romo three times in Minnesota’s 34-3 win over Dallas, while also compiling five tackles and two tackles for loss.

His performance ignited a Minnesota fan base that has seen the former 2006 fourth round pick mature into legitimate pass-rushing threat opposite Jared Allen on the Vikings’ defensive line. His development this season has been especially noteworthy, because at one point this summer it appeared that nickel specialist Brian Robison would push Edwards for more playing time.

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Viking and Saint fans better enjoy the moment

I was listening to Scott Van Pelt’s radio show on ESPN earlier today and he brought up an interesting fact about the NFC Championship Game: Over the last five years, there has only been one team to make a repeat performance in the NFC Championship Game, which are the Saints (2007, 2009). That means we have seen nine out of possible 10 teams that could make the title game.

Talk about parity.

The interesting thing to me about this factual nugget is that every year when fans and media pundits make their predictions, how many of them include the Super Bowl winner or runner-up in the conference title game? I don’t have hard facts, but I’m willing to assume that more times than not, prognosticators predict that teams that won the previous years will at least make another deep postseason run, yet history says otherwise (at least in the NFC, that is).

Take the Saints for example. The 2009 season hasn’t concluded yet, but chances are they’re going to have a similar makeup next season. Sean Payton will still be the head coach, Gregg Williams will still be the defensive coordinator, Drew Brees will still be under center and they’re still going to have a potent offense, regardless of whether or not Reggie Bush is retained. So logic would state that if they made it this far in 2009, that they could repeat next year.

But that’s the great thing about the NFL – it’s completely unpredictable. That’s why teams that didn’t make the playoffs this year still have hope, and not just hope for a postseason berth next season, but possibly more. If history repeats itself, there’s a very good chance that we will see two completely different teams in the NFC conference game next season.

Of course, if you’re a Detroit Lions fan just go ahead and disregard that last paragraph.

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2010 NFC & AFC Championship Odds

Odds makers have released the point spreads for the NFC and AFC Championship games, with the Saints and Colts opening as the favorites.

According to theSpread.com, Drew Brees and the Saints have opened as a 4.5-point favorite over the Vikings for the NFC title game. Both teams covered in the Divisional Round, with New Orleans winning as a 7-point favorite over Arizona, and Minnesota easily covering as a 3-point favorite over Dallas.

In the AFC, the Colts are an 8-point favorite over the Jets after beating the Ravens 20-3 in a Divisional Round matchup on Saturday night. New York pulled off an upset Sunday evening in San Diego, beating the Chargers 17-14.

Kickoff for the AFC Championship Game is set for 3:00PM ET on Sunday, while the NFC title matchup will start at 6:40PM ET.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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