As we look forward to the NFL season-opening rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game between the Vikings and the Saints, it appears that the Vikings will have a tough time keeping the score as close as it was in January.
Although both teams have seen very little turnover on their rosters, the Vikings' cornerback unit has suffered a rash of injuries that will cause them to match up poorly against the Saints' stacked receiving corps. With Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore, the Saints are four-deep at receiver, and they will be very hard for the Vikings' dime package to contain. Rookie corner Chris Cook, drafted early in the second round to bring speed to Minnesota's cornerback position, will miss the season opener because of a torn meniscus suffered in against Seattle in the preseason. Starter Cedric Griffin is coming off of an ACL injury he suffered at the start of overtime in the NFC Championship, so he will probably not be able to run at full speed with New Orleans' receivers. In exchange for receiver Greg Camarillo, the Vikings sent Benny Sapp to the Dolphins. This leaves Antoine Winfield, Asher Allen, and Lito Sheppard as the only completely healthy corners on the roster. Winfield is too slow in coverage, Sheppard plays with poor technique, and Allen is entering only his second year. Together, this is a recipe for disaster, and this week's Try This video segment focuses on how the Saints can exploit this matchup.
The Vikings are going to have an incredibly hard time stopping the Saints' offense, so their best bet of wining is to keep the ball out of Drew Brees's hands for as long as possible. With the Vikings' top receiver Sidney Rice out for the first few weeks of the season, defenses will be able to focus a little more on Adrian Peterson, though the presence of Percy Harvin means that defenses still won't key in on Peterson as much as they did in Peterson's first two years in the league. The Saints' linebackers are fairly slow and they don't tackle very well, so if Peterson gets into the second level of the defense he might be able to break off some big chunks of yardage and continually move the chains. With Chester Taylor in Chicago and Toby Gerhart facing a knee injury, Peterson is going to have to be the force that guides this team for the Vikings to beat the Saints.
Trends and Tidbits
- Even though Brandon Marshall is in Miami, you can still expect to see the return of the Wildcat formation in South Florida. The Dolphins schemed and executed the Wildcat far better than anyone else did, and when Ronnie Brown's injury forced the Dolphins to scrap the Wildcat, other NFL teams no longer had a blueprint from which they could copy. When Miami runs the Wildcat more often this year, other teams will follow suit.
- Tim Tebow will see some goal-line plays in the Broncos' opener against Tebow's hometown Jaguars, but don't expect the play-calling to get too creative. McDaniels, like his mentor Bill Belichick, knows not to tip his hand too soon, and will not show off Tebow too much so that some of his plays will still come as a surprise when he uses them.
- Monday night will showcase two teams in the AFC who had the flashiest offseason acquisitions of the year. The Ravens acquired Donte' Stallworth, Anquan Boldin, and T.J. Housmanzadeh to add some firepower to their run-heavy offense. The Jets added Antonio Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jason Taylor. Both teams are entering the season with huge expectations, but one of them will have to start off 0-1 against another AFC team, which could have an impact on playoff seeding later in the season. - Hank Koebler, IV
Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.
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