After posting weekly Power Rankings all season, only NFL.com has continued to monitor the remaining teams into the postseason. For the Divisional Weekend, the Saints come in at #4 (up one spot previously from #5 last week).
The Saints are the most complete team left in the tournament, with equal strength through the air and on the rug -- plus a solid kicking game, to boot (mostly because of the punter). That said, they wouldn’t have sniffed advancement if Drew Brees hadn’t made at least eight highly difficult throws with perfect ball placement against the Panthers. Troy Aikman referred to Brees’ accuracy repeatedly, noting how important it is to “put the ball where you want to.” Which is precisely what Brees did on plays that were well-covered by the Carolina secondary. The touchdown strike to Ted Ginn Jr. was reminiscent of vintage Brees-to-Devery Henderson connections. The throw on the run to Mike Thomas in the mid-fourth quarter was Canton fuel. Brees might have received more help this year than he did at any time over the last seven years, but he was the difference Sunday.
At number #4, there is only one NFC team ahead of them with the Atlanta Falcons (#5) and Philadelphia Eagles (#7) behind them. The only NFC team ahead of them in the power rankings? Their opponent this Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings at #2.
The Vikings spent their bye week getting healthy, or so you would think. Their fans might point out that Minnesota disposed of the Saints -- who stand between the Vikings and a place in the NFC title game -- rather easily earlier this season. Yep. The defense bottled up then-New Orleans RB Adrian Peterson in his revenge (attempt) game, Sam Bradford threw for more than 300 yards with no picks and Dalvin Cook looked like a stud in his NFL debut. Exactly none of those players will be participating in this week’s game. This will be a tough matchup for the Vikings, particularly when it comes to Saints RB Alvin Kamara. That said, this group is more talented than the Panthers and should be able to hold up in coverage better than Carolina, even when dedicating Andrew Sendejo to the box to stop the Kamara/Ingram sandwich.
This week’s match-up between the Saints and Vikings is the only game that will pit two of the top 5 ranked teams against each other, so it’ll definitely be a marquee game to watch across the NFL.
As a fun little aside, NFL.com also post this little nugget:
Think you can figure out the answer? Bet you Cam’t.