Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Saints remain alone atop NFC

Posted by: under Vikings, Lions, NFC, Packers, Super Bowl, Vikings offense, Brett Favre, Visanthe Shiancoe Updated: December 1, 2009 - 1:56 AM

Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was wrapping up an interview around his locker at Winter Park on Monday when he was asked if he planned to watch that night's game between the New England Patriots and undefeated New Orleans.

"I'm not going to lie," Shiancoe said. "I'm excited to watch that game."

Shiancoe certainly wasn't the only Vikings player who felt this way. Minnesota had improved to 10-1 with a 36-10 victory over Chicago on Sunday, keeping the Vikings a close second to New Orleans in the battle for the top seed in the NFC. A loss to the visiting Patriots would have given the Saints the same record as the Vikings.

That didn't come close to happening. Playing in the prime-time spotlight, the Saints cruised to a 38-17 victory as quarterback Drew Brees threw for 371 yards and five touchdowns. If Brett Favre stated his candidacy for MVP with his performance on Sunday, then Brees certainly did the same on Monday as New Orleans moved to 11-0. 

The thing that stood out about Monday's game was just how tough the Saints are going to be to beat at home -- in the NFC title game, for instance. Having covered the Vikings' victory over the Saints at the Superdome last season in a Monday night game, I can tell you that place has a loud and festive atmosphere that could and would cause plenty of problems for an opponent.

The Vikings know all about making life difficult on teams that have to come into the noisy Metrodome, but how often has their offense been tested in an extremely loud environment where it's hard to function. Detroit and St. Louis play indoors but the Lions and Rams are terrible teams and their fans have given up for the most part.

Obviously, the Vikings would love to overtake the Saints and earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason. That remains a possibility but it isn't going to be easy. Let's take a look at the Vikings and Saints remaining schedules.

Vikings: at Arizona (7-4), Sunday; vs. Cincinnati (8-3), Dec. 13; at Carolina (4-7), Dec. 20; at Chicago (4-7), Dec. 28; vs. New York Giants (6-5), Jan 3.

Saints: at Washington (3-8), Sunday; at Atlanta (6-5), Dec. 13; vs. Dallas (8-3), Dec. 19; vs. Tampa Bay (1-10), Dec. 27; at Carolina (4-7), Jan. 3.

Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King tweeted late Monday that on a neutral field, open-air stadium with natural grass, he would take the Saints to beat the Vikings, 37-31. A logical conclusion would be that King would give the Saints a bigger advantage playing in the Superdome.

However, the one positive for the Vikings would be that if they did end up playing the Saints in the NFC title game at least it would be indoors and that would be good news for Brett Favre. One thing that's become pretty obvious about Favre at this stage of his career is that he no longer enjoys playing in the elements and playing in a dome definitely agrees with him.

The other factor for Favre would be that facing the Saints in the Superdome would put him very close to his home and put him back in the stadium where he once won a Super Bowl as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

Would any of that matter? Who knows, but it sure would be fun to find out.

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