|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
With all the talk about the Jets-Colts games focusing on history, the NFC Championship is all about firsts. For all the times the Superdome has hosted a Super Bowl, a record seven and counting, this will be the first Conference Championship game. It will also be the first time Brett Favre will play in the NFC Championship not wearing a Green Bay jersey. The Vikings will be looking for their first Super Bowl appearance since 1977, while the Saints will be trying to make their first. There are many things that can happen, but only one team earns a trip to Miami.
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:
In 2007, the Saints made their first Conference Championship appearance, losing easily to the Chicago Bears. Since then, they have done several things. First, they build their defense by hiring Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator. They made trades to acquire guys like Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma and signed free agents such as Darren Sharper. They trusted Drew Brees to be at the helm and have loaded him up with plenty of weapons with Raggie Bush, Robert Meachem, Marques Colston and Devery Henderson. They finished the regular season with the best offense, made a run at a perfect record and got a bye week into the postseason.
However, The Saints dropped their last three games, two to non-playoff teams in the Buccaneers and Panthers. The once dynamic offense couldn’t put up more then 17 points and were allowing more than 20 a game. They were meeting the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Series, who were hot coming off a dramatic offensive display against Green Bay. Drew Brees and Reggie Bush shined as the offense was in-sync and the defense held Kurt Warner and the Cardinals to only 14 points. The Saints proved the end of the regular season had no impact on their game plan and that they are still the most dangerous team in the league.
It was last season when the Vikings made an attempt to get Brett Favre. The Packers made it clear that it would be anyone but them and the Jets were the winners in the Favre lottery. Then Brett retired, again, then thought about coming back. Then he stayed retired, but had surgery to fix a torn bicep. Then he decided to return, to the surprise of no one, to just manage games. He was responsible for making sure Adrian Peterson got plenty of carries and make critical throws when needed.
Fat Chance. Brett Favre went through a renaissance, throwing for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns. He has turned Sindey Rice and Percy Harvin into Pro Bowl receivers. Peterson didn’t just sit in the background, he went for 1,383 yards and a league leading 18 rushing touchdowns. The defense is a whos-who of All-Pro talent. Jared Allen, Kevin and Pat Williams, Anotine Winfield and Cedric Griffin have brought the Purple-People-Eaters back to prominence. They ran into the Cowboys in the Divisional Round, a team no one wanted to play. Brett Favre was outstanding and the defense was punishing, leading to a 34-3 victory. They are strong on each side of the ball and are scared of no offense, not matter how good it is.
THE BATTLE OF QUARTERBACKS:
No matter how much you talk about the two defenses, or the matchup between Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson, this game comes down to the quarterbacks. Brett Favre and Drew Brees were both potential MVP’s this year. It was their votes conflicting the other that allowed for Peyton Manning to win. Both Brees and Favre have thrown for more than 4,200 yards and 33 touchdowns. In their divisional games, they both went over 230 yards and three touchdowns, Favre had four, both of their ratings were over 125. They are two of the best at their positions and sadly, only one can go to the Super Bowl.
This game will be a chess match between two offensive minded head coaches, Brad Childress and Sean Payton and two fantastic defensive coordinators, Leslie Frazier and Gregg Williams. This could be the best game of the postseason. The home field factor means nothing as both teams will be used to the noise. The game could go anyway. A shootout, a defensive battle, a special team surprise, nothing should come as a shock. In the end it comes down to the quarterback and only one knows what it takes to get to a Super Bowl.
Vikings 27 – Saints 24.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Darren Sharper, Devery Henderson, Drew Brees, Jared Allen, Jeremy Shockey, Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Pat WIlliams, Reggie Bush, Robert Meachem, Sean Payton, Sidney Rice