METAIRIE, LA. - Brett Favre and Darren Sharper have been Super Bowl teammates, division adversaries and fellow dinosaurs who have had themselves genetically recreated to rule over the NFC in a "Jurassic Park" kind of way.

Favre is considered the Vikings' missing piece on offense. Sharper is said to be the Saints' missing piece on defense. Sunday's NFC Championship Game decides which player truly is the missing piece that makes it to Super Bowl XLIV.

"That is ironic," Sharper said. "I told Brett before he signed with Minnesota that they had a good team that would be able to go to the Super Bowl if he went there. Me coming here was the same thing."

Favre, 40, had one of the best seasons of his career on a 12-4 team that jumped to No. 2 in scoring. Sharper, 34, was first-team All-Pro on a 13-3 team that vaulted to No. 2 in takeaways.

Favre, the gunslinger, found a way to throw only seven interceptions.

"He's being smart with the football," Sharper said. "I think the cast he has around him allows him to be careful with the football. And the style of offense they run, his reads are pretty much defined for him. So it goes back to him not making too many errant throws."

Sharper, the gambler, found a way to grab nine interceptions without exposing his defense to many big plays, according to Favre.

"The thought from people when you play a guy like Sharp is that you can trick him and get big plays," Favre said. "In all honesty, you really don't see that this year."

That doesn't mean Favre won't test Sharper, and vice versa, when it comes to making big plays. When you've played a combined 32 years in the NFL, you tend to be pretty competitive that way.

"I think there are opportunities," Favre said.

Sharper agreed. "Brett will put the ball up in areas where a lot of other quarterbacks might not," he said.

In terms of subplots, it doesn't get any better than this matchup.

As a precaution, Sharper missed Wednesday's practice to rest his knee. But the word around the Saints facility is the former Viking has been talking more than a prison snitch in hopes that he can share something valuable from his past four seasons in Minnesota.

"He's definitely the guy we're going to go to to try and get any little tips," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "I know Drew [Brees] is going to go and talk to him about their defense and get any little edge we can. At this point, we have two very good teams. Any little edge you can get, that could make the difference in the game."

Sharper said he's the one going to teammates to give them inside information on his ex-mates. While that's common practice in the NFL, Sharper does admit it means "a little" extra that this game is against the Vikings.

"Whenever you face your old [team], it's just like going in the backyard to play someone you know or are familiar with," Sharper said. "There's always a little extra motivation to beat them."

For some extra, extra motivation, Sharper knows the Vikings made a business decision to let him walk in free agency without making him a serious offer.

"We talked," Sharper said. "But this was an easy transition for me."

Sharper was told tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, his old locker neighbor at Winter Park, has been practicing the "Sharper Shake" in hopes that he gets to perform Sharper's famous celebration dance on Sunday.

With a career-high 11 touchdown catches, Shiancoe is one of the many beneficiaries of the Vikings adding Favre as their missing piece. Shank also will find himself being covered at times by the Saints' missing piece.

"First of all," Sharper said. "I don't think [Shiancoe's] rhythm is good enough to do that dance."

Secondly, Sharper is hoping to keep Favre and the Vikings from spending too much time in the end zone.

"I told Brett before he went there that he had a Super Bowl-caliber team in Minnesota," Sharper said. "I just hope I can renege on those words and make us a Super Bowl-caliber team."

Mark Craig •