Thursday, January 21, 2010

Endgame 2010 – Minnesota Vikings

If the Vikings were a song:

Who Are the Vikings?:

Am I a bad person for not rooting for the Saints? Scratch that; am I a terrible person for actively rooting against the Saints? I’m aware that every Saints victory rebuilds an orphanage in New Orleans, but this far removed from Hurricane Katrina (and yes, I recognize that there is still an unbelievably pressing need for repair and revitalization work to be done in the community affected), am I really supposed to believe that a football team is “good for America”? I can’t be the only one who watches Drew Brees channel “300” in his pregame chant, or hears about Reggie Bush’s marriage promise to Kim Kardashian if he wins the championship, or listens to Jeremy Shockey talk about being undervalued, and gets the overwhelming feeling that in spite of the amazing things this team and the individuals it contains can accomplish, they’re kind of…well…douchebags. That’s why I’m thankful for the Vikings. In their construction and success, they’ve given us something that the Saints can never be due to their circumstances and composition: An antihero. Put it this way: If you root for Superman, then the Saints are your team, “Boondock Saints” is a cinematic masterpiece, and “The Buried Life” will be a life-changing television show. If, however, you think Superman maybe, even if he IS a nice guy, kind of has an ass kicking coming, then the Vikings are your team. Meet the Bizarro Saints, people; Vikings am built for win.

Let’s begin at the beginning; ESPN has ruined Brett Favre’s legacy as a football player. In force feeding us the image of a freewheeling man-child whose smiles added to his QB rating, the WWL has made a polarizing caricature out of a physical freak who should be undoubtedly respected for his skill set. Go back and look at what he did to the Cowboys and act like he’s not making throws that maybe two other quarterbacks in the entire league can make. Hell, that Greg Lewis last second TD pass from earlier this year that everyone was so ready to chalk up to “just throwing it up for grabs” might be the best long pass of this season OR last season. Knocking on 40’s door, Favre has put together his best statistical season (33 TD to 7 INT), and has done so without losing the pocket shiftiness and ability to improvise that have always made him an elite offensive weapon. Oh, and I know it’s no longer popular to say it, but is it so bad that he looks like he enjoys the game? The league has enough joyless football robots (every QB since 1998 has been doing a poor Peyton impression); why not sit back and enjoy a guy who looks like it’s not all a well choreographed dance? Compared to Brees’s methodical, precise attack, Favre’s think on the fly style (complete with a nasty chip on his shoulder) is practically Jazz out there.

Whether it starts with Favre or not, that same loose, split personality style goes to the rest of the team, making them either a flawed reflection or a nightmare matchup for their upcoming NFC Championship opponents. Sidney Rice is a southern fried Marques Colston, swallowing smaller corners in his shadow and using his body . Oh, and he might have better hands than Colston, too. Reggie Bush looks at Percy Harvin and gets upset about being drafted two years too early. Even Bernard Berrian fits, as the sort of speedy second option that the Saints seem to clone year after year (quick, where was Devery Henderson three years ago…my point exactly…). Throw in a defensive front that is built to give the Saints problems (strong middle combined with freakish athleticism around the edge that has led to a league leading 48 sacks...seriously, is there an end besides Mario Williams more freakishly athletic than Jared Allen?), and there’s no reason the Vikings shouldn’t win this.

Unless, of course, they get caught up in a shootout instead of an ugly war. Ugly wars are made for the Vikings, with their fear inducing defense and matchup advantages on the individual level. Shootouts, however, are the stomping grounds of the Saints. Given enough possessions, the system corrects itself, and starts to execute toward perfection. Which means the following: Adrian Peterson needs to be too fast to stop in the middle, too strong to stop around the edges, and every bit the unsolvable riddle that he is when he is at 100%. Forget Bizarro; Adrian Peterson needs to go Doomsday on the Saints defenders. If he has another game where he can’t break 100 yards, the Saints are eventually going to get the time they need to outscore the Vikings the way they can outscore every offense in the league. If Peterson keeps the clock moving, however, and forces a surprisingly opportunistic secondary to stay home in the middle of the field, I’m not sure the Saints will have an answer for Peterson. True, Favre may have helped shape this team’s identity as a championship contender, but Adrian Peterson has been waiting since 2007 for this stage, and at this point, the only thing that can stop him from taking what he wants is himself. Angry, deadly, and terrifying, and potentially self destructive…say hi to the bad guys.

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