Don't flip if Vikings are less than saintly in New Orleans
The NFL hype machine wants you to impale yourself with a Viking horn should the Purple fall in their nationally televised, season-opener versus the Saints tonight.
With constant commercial slow-motion replays of Brett Favre getting tossed about like a rag doll in last season's overtime NFC Championship loss to the Saints and countless print and web stories amping up this contest with constant use of the words "revenge" and "rematch" and "cheap shots," the debut has been penned and promo'd like this is the biggest contest of the season.
To offer two typed words of my own: It's not.
That's not to say that we shouldn't be collectively enthusiastic for the return to the gridiron for a Purple bunch that readily appears to again be one of the stronger teams in the conference. Nor is that to suggest that tonight's game may not prove wholly entertaining.
But the overkill of this bill is merely another example of the NFL's ability to make every damn game appear a title for the winner and a wake for the eventual loser. Is this technically a "rematch"? I suppose, even though it's one from a season removed. Will the Vikings return to the Big Easy with the motivation of "revenge" in their hearts? Probably. But that game was last year and it proved wholly depressing and really, we need to let that one go just as we'll need to let this baby go after what I believe will be another Viking loss.
I don't offer that lightly. Last year, I had the Purple dropping just a lone game (at Pittsburgh) in my weekly and playoff previews and after a thorough review of their schedule for this campaign I don't see them losing more than five games in the regular season.
But in truth, the Vikings offered extended evidence of poor road play to close out last year, dropping their final four away games of the season. Am I contradicting myself by the reference to "last year"? Maybe -- but that number is proof of a suspect six week stretch as opposed to one still-befuddling loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion.
Moving forward to present Purple, the Vikings play New Orleans sporting an o-line that looks to offer a gimp version of starting center John Sullivan. That may portend a sour blocking jambalaya for an immobile, grandfather of a quarterback. In addition, their d-backfield claims just three healthy starters which should find Drew Brees passing out the pigskin with the
same aplomb of Mardi Gras dudes passing out beads. Adding to the concern is that this really isn't the most opportune time, place or stage for the Purple to be unveiling new offensive personnel (i.e., Toby Gerhart, Greg Camarillo, Albert Young) around Brett Favre.
The Saints have their own injury concerns on defense (namely linebacker Jonathan Vilma) which should behoove Adrian Peterson's chances to replicate the (good) numbers --122 yards, 3 TD's -- of his Championship performance against this measured Saints' run D. But that won't be enough.
Defending Super Bowl champs have won their past 10 season openers and that will go to 11 this eve. The Vikings will begin this season 0-1 and it shouldn't be considered a big deal. Of greater importance: the Purple will have nine days to get healthy and polished before their Week 2 home game against Miami (which they should win) before hosting Detroit in Week 3 (which they will win). After that, they'll be 2-1 with a Bye week before what should prove a tough Week 5 matchup with the Jets.
It's true that the 16-game NFL season does put a premium on each win. But aside from being a conference game, I see four games on the Vikings' schedule that are of far greater gravity than tonight: two with Chicago and two with Green Bay. The North is beefed up this season and before the Vikings can again gauge their status amidst the league's best, they'll need to first prove their divisional worth with away dates versus both of those teams in the first nine games of the year.
The Viking ship from last season sailed away eight months ago, and we need to let those sordid memories vanish into the horizon facing our backs. They won't leave the dock this week, but no worry: there's ample time and opportunity to get aboard for what should be another fine season.
New Orleans 34
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