First look at Vikings vs. Saints

What a weekend

Well, what can I say? Where’s the defense in the playoffs? When I played, you never got to the Super Bowl without a great defense. Things kind of changed this weekend because I thought these games would be a lot closer than they were. They were all blowouts. I had to wait for the Jets to show up. I picked them to win and they gave the Chargers everything they could handle and more.

In the other three games, when you think about it, I knew my Saints were going to win. I just didn’t think they would simply stomp on the Cardinals like they did. But they had two weeks to get rested and like I said, the Cardinals were thinking too much about their big win over the Packers instead of looking ahead. It hurt Kurt Warner and the Cardinals that they working with a short week, too.

The thing about the Saints is that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams finally got all his secondary people back and that helped him dial up his blitz packages. They knocked Warner out of the game and by the second half that game was over. I’m hoping Warner comes back and doesn’t retire. He has a lot of football left and all those receivers, too.

The great thing about the Saints, though, was that coach Sean Payton was able to dial up that running game, one that was missing at the end of the season — especially during that three-game losing streak.

But that’s ancient history. Reggie Bush showed why the Saints drafted him No. 1 a few years ago. What a dynamic kick returner he is and he flashed a lot of speed out of the backfield, too. His two touchdowns opened up that game. The Saints seem to have all their weapons back on offense and Drew Brees knows how to distribute the ball.

But as good as the Saints were on defense, the Vikings were better against the Cowboys. Their front four dominated Dallas and I didn’t see that coming. Jimmy Johnson said on our show that Dallas wasn’t that physical up front and it looked it. Yes, they ran all over the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card game, but they did a lot of that out of the shotgun. It was more finesse running than pure power. Plus, once offensive tackle Flozell Adams went out of the game, Dallas had nobody to block Jared Allen.

In fact, one time when tight end Jason Witten was supposed to block Allen, the Vikings defensive end just blew in on Tony Romo. Once Brett Favre gave the Vikings the lead, Romo had no chance. He was running for his life. He was sacked six times and fumbled three times. Those four turnovers — and 40-year-old Favre — were the reason the Vikings won.

We might have never found out how good Sidney Rice was without Favre. Rice only scored three touchdowns. On the first one, the Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh didn’t even know that Rice had caught the ball. What a shock that had to be. On his second touchdown, Favre ad-libbed and so did Rice, who was blocking on the play, got up and ran down the field. Favre found him and that was basically the game.

Minnesota is an interesting team. But if defensive end Ray Edwards, who hurt his knee late in this game, isn’t able to play in the championship game … well, that’s good news for the Saints and Brees. The Cowboys couldn’t block Edwards, who had three sacks.

I thought that Baltimore played inspired defense against Peyton Manning and the Colts, but Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron didn’t give Joe Flacco a chance to compete and try to win that game. You can tell that they have problems there in Baltimore. OK, maybe they don’t have enough receivers, but there’s no way you are going to win a playoff game by just running all the time. You need to allow Flacco a chance to compete and try to make some plays. The Ravens didn’t do that until it was way too late in that game. Baltimore’s defense played well enough early in that game to give their offense a chance. But the Cameron decided not to take a chance on the opportunity.

NFC title game: My Pick

You can’t ask for any more drama than Favre getting another chance to get another ring. This will be his fifth NFC championship game. He lost his last one in Green Bay when Michael’s Giants went into Lambeau and beat him. That was his last game for the Packers and I know he’s come out of retirement to try to win another championship.

Favre has had a great season in Minnesota, but this will be a major test. Not so much for him, but for his team. Can the Vikings put enough pressure on Brees and knock him out of his rhythm? I’m not convinced that the Vikings have enough good secondary players to cover all of the options that Brees has. I mean, they have four or five really good receivers in New Orleans. The Cowboys couldn’t put that kind of pressure on Minnesota.

There is no way that I’m picking against the Saints. This team has been so great for the city of New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana. Yes, I was worried about how they ended the season, but Sean Payton knew what he was doing. He rested his guys and then got a couple physical practices out of them before the playoffs.

The Superdome will be rocking Sunday and I’ll be there. I can’t wait. We have covered so many Super Bowls in the Superdome, so it will be fun to see if the Saints can win in order to get to the Super Bowl. Plus, this is the matchup, too, we thought we’d get in November. The Saints and the Vikings were the NFC’s two best teams for much of the season. It’s only fitting that they play at the end.