Vikings-Saints matchups to watch
Vikings RCB Lito Sheppard, who was signed as a free agent this offseason, vs. Saints WR Marques Colston, who had a team-leading 70 receptions for 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Sheppard was brought in to help replace Griffin, who is coming off ACL surgery. However, Sheppard did not stand out in the preseason and appeared to have lost the job to second-round rookie Chris Cook. Cook suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game, giving the job back to Sheppard. The Saints are certain to be licking their chops at the potential of getting the 6-foot-4 Colston matched up against the 5-foot-10 Sheppard. Drew Brees will spend the night looking for Colston.
Vikings LB Chad Greenway, who had a career-high three interceptions last season, vs. Saints RB Reggie Bush, who caught 47 passes in 2009 to finish fifth on the team. Bush can be a matchup nightmare and it will be interesting to see if Greenway is the guy who ends up on him or how the Vikings elect to try to defend him. Greenway also could be a candidate to help cover tight end Jeremy Shockey, who had 48 receptions last season. Either way, the Vikings are going to have to be aware of more than just the wide receiver corps the Saints will put on the field.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, whose dynamic performance has been overshadowed at times by his fumbling issues, vs. Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma. Peterson fumbled twice against New Orleans in the NFC title game and also botched a handoff with Favre that resulted in a very costly turnover late in the first half. Peterson swears he has worked on his fumbling issues and has a new approach, but Vilma and Co., will believe it when they see it. Until then, they are going to go after the football as much as possible when it's in Peterson's hands.
Saints LT Jermon Bushrod vs. Vikings RDE Jared Allen. Bushrod did a good job keeping Allen away from Drew Brees in the NFC title game last January. While the Vikings' defense had success against the Saints most of the night, Allen finished the game with no sacks and was credited with just one quarterback hurry. The All-Pro defensive end had just two total tackles in what turned out to be a quiet evening for him.
Saints RDE Will Smith vs. Vikings RT Bryant McKinnie. Smith, who had a career-high 13 sacks last season, is the Saints' top pass rusher coming off the edge. But while he's big, strong and quick, he'll certainly have his hands full against the 6-foot-8, 335-pound McKinnie. Getting a jump on McKinnie and getting a few hits on Brett Favre could give the Saints a much-needed advantage when the Vikings try to throw the ball.
Saints RB Reggie Bush vs. Vikings special teams. Bush had two punt returns for touchdowns against the Vikings in a regular-season game two years ago and will look to light them up again. Bush didn't have a great season returning punts in 2009 after having offseason knee surgery, but he showed that he regained his flash and dash in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Arizona Cardinals last season when he returned a punt 83 yards for a score.
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