Sunday’s nightcap has the makings of being a classic, which means it will probably end up being a low-scoring snooze fest. We’ll see, but I doubt we’ll be begging for scores. Odds are Brett Favre and Drew Brees will combine for more than 500 yards passing and 6 TDs, which would be a fantasy haven if fantasy seasons were still in play.
But for us, we need to look past the stud signal callers and focus on a collection of other potential fantasy impact players for next year.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, 6:40 p.m. FOX
Vikings did their best Jets impression last weekend with an onslaught of defensive pressure on Tony Romo, taking the Cowboys out of the game early. Minnesota would love to do that again in New Orleans, however the Saints have a more consistent offensive line – anchored by Bloomsburg University alum Jahri Evans – and feature a few more offensive weapons than the Cowboys.
The Vikes defensive line won’t have the home crowd to give it an advantage on snap counts. I doubt the noise will hamper Minnesota’s offense much, but I do feel Adrian Peterson needs to be a factor in order for Favre to punch his historical ticket to Miami. If the Vikes get too pass happy, the Saints led by safety Darren Sharper will be bound to make a play.
For us fantasy owners, it means:
Sidney Rice (83-1,312-8 this season) will again garner a lot of attention from Favre. Rice, who tied a NFL playoff record last week with 3 TDs, continues to be a rising fantasy star. Another big game will only further cement his status as a top WR next year. A dud won’t matter, because we know what he is capable of.
Percy Harvin (60-790-6) is again battling ongoing migraine issues, which he dealt with several times this year only to play in the games. Minnesota showed last week how much it values Harvin, involving him in the running game.
Barring a surprise game time decision, Harvin should play, so we need to be on the ball noting how he is used in the game plan. This will especially be important if the game stays close. Making key plays in crunch time will certainly earn Harvin kudos from Favre as he pushes Bernard Berrian for the No. 2 WR slot.
Bernard Berrian (55-618-4) may be facing his last shot to remain a viable fantasy option with the Vikes, especially if Harvin is slowed by injury. Even amid Minnesota’s offensive bonanza last week, Berrian had a measly 3 catches for 32 yards. Another fizzle could send Berrian packing, which could end up being good news. I know Chicago would love to have him back!
New Orleans Saints
The Saints will be facing a tremendous challenge of corralling their emotions along with the contagious excitement the Superdome crowd will undoubtedly be exuding to avoid a bad start and fall behind early. Although, if we remember the last time New Orleans entered a much-hyped home game – Monday night against Atlanta in the first game at home since Hurricane Katrina – the Saints used all the emotion to their advantage. As a result, the first possession for each team will be great television for us. Be sure to turn the volume up.
For us fantasy owners, it means:
Reggie Bush (390 yards rushing, 5 TDs, 47-335-3 this season) could build off his brilliant performance last week to make a statement to the fantasy world he is ready to live up to all of the expectations. I doubt it, but the Saints need to at least stick with the run to keep the Vikes’ defense honest and Bush is clearly our most intriguing Saints’ RB fantasy specimen. He ran with a purpose last week, so it will be a great sign to see if he continues to do that on Sunday.
Devery Henderson (51-804-2) is working hard to draw attention from Brees – who is very generous with his passing options. Last week, Henderson had a smooth 44-yard TD catch. He ended up with a 4-80-1 day. If Brees gets time to throw, Henderson will get open a few times deep. One or two big plays between these two could give us a dynamic combo to look out for next season.
Lynell Hamilton (two goal line TDs in the last two games) could just put himself at least on some deep fantasy draft boards. Why? Because this 6-foot-235-pound rookie might turn into the Saints’ go-to guy at the goal line.
With an offense like the Saints, Hamilton would get plenty of opportunities to do his stuff and just may be an interesting option for bye week or injury fill-in, or a playoff push hunch play. I’m just saying. If Hamilton scores two red zone TDs on Sunday, I bet you’ll be thinking the same thing I am!
My foolish prediction: New Orleans 30, Minnesota 27, OT
This matchup is too awesome for us not to be blessed with some extra game time to cap off our final NFL weekend. Sean Payton has been the league’s best offensive play-caller for several years, and I don’t see the Saints being stymied like the Cowboys were last week. We’re talking Payton versus Jason Garrett here.
I’m also betting Minnesota – ahem, Favre – will be too stubborn to lean on Peterson’s back despite New Orleans’ penchant for giving up big runs and instead chuck, chuck and chuck the ball. Favre has been brilliantly efficient this year, but it ends on Sunday … I’m seeing 2007 replayed all over again, Favre tosses a stupid pick in OT in Vikes territory, giving the Saints great position to knock in the game-winning field goal.
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