Keeping this guy away from Drew Breeeeees! will be a big part of the Saints game plan today. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? (HansDat Soft Drink Prize to the first commenter who identifies the significance/connection that makes those words appropriate for this post.)
Love is all around no need to waste it, and you shouldn't waste any more time either. Make the jump to get into my Hot Reads right now!!
** We should also plan to keep it right here for all our pre-pre-game chatter. How are you feeling about things? What Saints gear are you wearing? What's your pre-game meal or gameday snack situation? Any special potent potables on the menu? **
I can't say it enough times and I can't bold it anymore than I already am in this font, but if they cannot Protect Drew Brees, the Saints won't stand a chance.
This week, we have the hirsute Jared Allen, the NFL's 2011 sack leader (17.5), chomping at the bit to make mincemeat out of Brees with multiple sacks. He's got to do something to shift the attention off his insulting comments about the city of New Orleans, after all. The other Purple People Eating sack threats to watch out for today are Brian Robison (6) and Everson Griffen (4).
What I'd Like To See: Allen and the rest of the Vikings defense held sackless, and Brees able to handle whatever pressure they generate off the ends with quick releases, timely draw plays, and successful dump/screen passes.
Checkdown # 1
A crucial aspect to this game, and the Saints playoff hopes, as well, will be the ability of the team to Run With Authority.
The Saints enter the game averaging 4.8 yards per carry, 122 yards per game, and they are 9-0 when they rush for 100 or more yards. The Vikings run defense only gives up 3.7 yards per carry and 101 yards per game, so we'll have to wait and see what gives way first.
What I'd Like To See: Enough running plays to keep the Vikings defense honest throughout the game, some good short-yardage third down conversions, a couple/few runs of 15+ yards, and if the game calls for it, successfully running out the clock at the end (as opposed to what happened last week). I also want all these things to add up to 100+ yards.
Checkdown # 2
The defense can do their part this week by making sure they Don't Get Star Struck. In the last two games, they have really done a good job of neutralizing some big playmakers (Calvin Johnson and Chris Johnson), so I'm calling for more of the same, FTW.
What I'd Like To See: Adrian Peterson (AP2K as I like to call him), with his 1000+ rushing/receiving yards and 12 total TDs, and Percy Harvin, with his 1100+ rushing/receiving yards and 6 total TDs, kept under wraps. Allow me to put some numbers on this. AP2K needs to gain less than 80 total yards, and score no more than 1 TD. Harvin can get up to 90 yards combined, but needs to be kept out of the end zone.
This is another road game against a seemingly hapless opponent, and the last time the Saints were in this position (St. Louis, October 30), it ended up being a loooong drive back to Louisville for me after the game, so to avoid this happening again, the Saints must Keep Their Cool in Mill City.
Some Vikings players and fans may still be carrying around resentment from the bitterest loss the team has ever experienced in the entire history of the franchise (or, as we call it, the 2009 NFC Championship Game), so energy and endorphins will be at a fevered pitch and bubbling over in the Metrodome. The Saints simply cannot allow themselves to get caught up in it.
What I'd Like To See: Good restraint, control, focus, and self-discipline that results in five or less penalties assessed against the Saints. A sense of calmness, coolness, and collectedness that allows the Saints to adapt their game plan to match whatever the Vikings are giving them without getting frustrated into forcing things if the game does not go their way early on in the action.
Bonus Hot Read
2-11 teams have nothing to lose, and the Vikings are a 2-11 team. Teams with nothing to lose may pull out all the stops to gain an edge against a vastly superior opponent. The Saints would be well served to Be Ready For Anything.
Let me tell you exactly what I'm talking about. It's been over a year, but I'm still trying to shake the image of Cleveland's Reggie Hodges cruising down the field with the ball while the Saints were looking up into the lights of the Superdome, trying to locate the punt he was supposed to have launched into the air.
Greg McMahon, for the most part, I'm looking right at you. I know you've got a steely glare that's bringing me to my knees, but beyond that, your boys need to be ready.
What I'd Like To See: The Saints in a heightened state of vigilance to allow them to be in a position to thwart any "roxy-roxy" plays (as my Dad calls them) by the Wikings, especially early on in the game. Plays of this sort include, but are not limited to: fake field goals, fake punts, reverses, halfback passes, and onside kick attempts.