Tonight marks one of the most exciting days of the year, the start to the NFL season.
This years kickoff game pits the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints against the Minnesota Vikings in an epic rematch of last years NFC Title game. The Saints won that game and wound up winning the title while Brett Favre led another team to the NFC title game only to lose because of an late interception. (Sounds familiar if your a Packers fan)
So what has changed since these team last met?
Well the Saints have the Lombardi trophy but changes were limited on offense. The team will have all of their 1st-team contributers back, minus backup running back Mike Bell who left for Philadelphia during the offseason. Drew Brees and company should be prepared to defend their title and put up big numbers as usual.
The Saints defense has been different story. After having a career year, Darren Sharper has been placed on the PUP list which will keep him out for the first six games of the NFL season. He underwent knee surgery in the offseason so this move was expected but will leave a gap in the teams secondary. The Saints brought in Malcolm Jenkins to play free safety and Alex Brown to help bolster the defensive line. These moves should help their defense for sure but the teams has limited depth on the defensive line and could be without Jonathan Vilma at MLB. The Saints defense has struggled with run-stopping and the Vikings will no doubt attack this. Vilma has actually been more effective in the passing game which may comes a bit of surprise but could help the team against Peterson.
The problem for the Saints is that they will be up against one of best running games in NFL tonight. Adrian Peterson ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns against them last January so you can be sure that Brad Childress will look to exploit the Saints poor run defense.
The Minnesota Vikings had the usual Brett Favre drama to deal with this offseason but he’s back as expected. The Vikings have been hit hard by some injuries that will limit their explosiveness this season. Pro-Bowl wide-receiver Sidney Rice decided to undergo surgery that will keep him out for half of the season. Last year Rice was Favres go-to guy and the teams best deep threat. Not having him in the offense may limit their big play ability and could change the teams offensive play-calling. Percy Harvin has dealt with migraine headaches throughout training camp that has limited his playing time but seems to be ready to go for tonights game. The Vikings traded for Greg Camarillo a few weeks ago to maintain some depth in their passing game.
The Vikings success this year may not be due to the teams passing game as much as their ability to run the ball. Backup running back Chester Taylor left the Vikings during the offseason for their division rival, Chicago Bears. Minnesota drafted Toby Gerhart to be their No. 2 back but his skill set is not even close to the same as Taylors. The team will have to lean on Adrian Peterson this season who has proven that he carry a teams offense in the past. He has said that he’s corrected his previous fumbling trouble by keeping the ball higher when getting tackled. Petersons fumbling was one of the biggest factors in their loss to New Orleans in the NFC Championship game.
On Defense, the Vikings still have their big names but will have limited depth in the secondary. The team lost Cedric Griffin to an ACL injury during last years game against the Saints. Rookie Chris Cook was drafted to fill in at corner but recently went down with his own injury which leaves them with little depth and up against one of the best passing games. The Vikings best chance at winning this game will be in their ability to limit the Saints passing offense and keep this game from being a shootout.
Tonight should be an excellent display of offense while the teams defenses make their best attempts to keep up. It would be hard to imagine the NFL choosing another game that would have been this compelling.