Tweeting Vikings vs. Saints

NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 21: Drew Brees  talks with Robert Meachem  of the New Orleans Saints during the game against the Houston Texans at the Louisiana Superdome on August 21, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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Vikings vs. Saints: Sizing up strengths and weaknesses

NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27: Drew Brees  of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the San Diego Chargers at the Louisiana Superdome on August 27, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

One of the many things that is intriguing about football is that the game can often be decided by just one facet of the contest, whether it be a team’s running strength verses its opponents weak run defense, or an elite quarterback being able to pick apart a porous secondary.

With that in mind, here are two key factors that could determine who gets the edge in the much-ballyhooed matchup between the Vikings and Saints tonight.

Saints’ strength vs. Vikings’ weakness
Seeing as how Brees usually beats teams with his arm, many people assume that the Saints’ strength is their passing game. But their true strength is in their balance and Sean Payton’s ability to adjust his game plan to take advantage of an opponent’s weakness. Minnesota’s weakness defensively is in its secondary, where injuries have left the unit thin as a whole. Antoine Winfield can certainly hold his own on the left side, but Lito Sheppard is often inconsistent in coverage, which isn’t good considering the two safeties (Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams) had trouble in pass defense last year. Brees knows how to beat teams up the seam and has plenty of weapons to attack the Vikings’ soft secondary. That said, it’s vital that he has enough time to throw or else his timing will be thrown off and Minnesota will be able to keep the game close. Jared Allen and Ray Edwards are the strength of the Vikings’ defense and the biggest weakness the Saints have offensively is left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who was exposed last year by DeMarcus Ware in a loss to the Cowboys. However, if Brees has time to throw, expect some big plays tonight for New Orleans.

Vikings’ strength vs. Saints’ weakness
It was interesting to watch the Vikings transform from a balanced squad last year to a team that predominantly relied on the pass with Brett Favre under center. But seeing as how Sidney Rice is out and questions remain about Favre’s ankle, the key for Minnesota tonight will be Adrian Peterson. Everyone knows what the Saints’ offense is capable of, which is why Minnesota needs to rely on AP to chew up the clock and keep Drew Brees and Co. on the sidelines. If they can’t establish the run against a soft New Orleans’ run defense (especially at defensive tackle), then don’t expect Favre to be able to attack the Saints’ secondary without his No. 1 wideout from a season ago. Brad Childress’ overall game plan tonight should be to control the tempo on the ground, control the clock and escape New Orleans with a victory.

Game time is set for 8:30PM ET on NBC.

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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Harvin practices, makes trip to New Orleans

Rookie of the Year winner Percy Harvin was back at practice for the Vikings on Saturday after missing the past two days with migraine headaches.

One source told Werder the symptoms Harvin was suffering from with his migraine headaches were less severe but the problem still lingers.

Harvin traveled with his teammates to New Orleans for the NFC Championship Game later Saturday, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported.

He was listed as questionable on the official injury report but his availability to play remained undetermined.

Hopefully for the Vikings’ sake, Harvin will be able to play. He gives the team another deep threat to go along with Sidney Rice and is also explosive when Brad Childress gets him carries in the backfield.

Hopefully the migraine (which can often last days) won’t linger much longer and he’ll be 100%.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Migraines could sideline Harvin for NFC title game

Vikings’ rookie receiver Percy Harvin missed practice for the second straight day due to migraine headaches and now there’s some question about whether or not he’ll be able to play in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Migraines are no joke, which is why Harvin hasn’t even been able to go through a light practice. They almost feel like someone is repeatedly driving a stake through one of your eyes, while any noise or light adds to the pain. In extreme cases, some people even have to be on suicide watch because the pain is so intense. (I’m not an expert on the subject, but I suffer from migraines myself and have gained some knowledge on them throughout the years from multiple doctors.)

This isn’t a situation in which Harvin would be able to tough out the pain. Migraines can affect your vision, focus and concentration, and therefore if Harvin wakes up with pain on Sunday then there’s zero chance that he will play.

This of course, is bad news for the Vikings. Harvin has game-changing speed and would be a viable asset on a fast track like the Superdome. Here’s hoping for Minnesota’s sake that he’s able to go and is pain free.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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