The New Orleans Saints (14-3) will be trying to advance to their first Super Bowl when they go against the Minnesota Vikings (13-4) on Sunday in the Superdome.
In their only other trip to the NFC title game, the Saints fell flat on their faces in the second half and dropped a 39-14 decision to the Chicago Bears in frigid Soldier Field after the 2006 season.
This time, the Saints don't have to worry about the weather because they earned the right to host the championship game for the first time as the conference's top seed.
Still, they know it won't be any easier to get where they've never been before despite a 45-14 blowout of the Arizona Cardinals in the divisional round last weekend.
While the Saints will be trying to get to their first Super Bowl, the second-seeded Vikings have just as much motivation to get to the NFL's title game for the first time since 1977. They advanced to Sunday's game with a 34-3 pelting of the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday.
"We'll have our work cut out for us," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said of the Vikings, who have won their last two games by a combined score of 78-10. "Obviously, they know what it's like to play at a high level.
"They were doing it all season long, and obviously, they're hitting on all cylinders right now," Brees added. "It's going to be a great game."
While the Saints led the NFL in total offense and scoring this season, the Vikings, who had nine Pro Bowl selections, were ranked in the top six in the league in offense and defense.
The Saints, however, are hopeful that their experience in 2006 will be a springboard to what they missed out on back then.
"I guess you'd say we're more traveled in having gone through these games," coach Sean Payton said. "Each week you learn things about yourself and about your team and about your preparation."
While running back Pierre Thomas wasn't on the 2006 team, he said he senses the urgency on the part of this year's squad to go where no other Saints team has gone.
"The attitude now is that guys just want to go out and finish everything," he said. "We worked so hard this season and we want to finish it out. We want to go out here and prove a point to everybody. We want to show everybody that we can be that team to make it to the big show."
SERIES HISTORY: 28th overall meeting. Vikings lead regular-season series, 18-7, and 2-0 in postseason play. The Vikings have taken 12 of their last 15 matchups, which included lopsided victories in the 1987 and 2000 playoffs. Minnesota defeated the Saints, 44-10, in a 1987 wild-card game in the Superdome and also won, 34-16, in a 2000 NFC divisional playoff game in the Metrodome.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 — NFL teams that have never been to the Super Bowl. The list includes the Saints, who will be trying to earn their first trip to the title game in the 43-year history of the franchise when they meet the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think anyone in this locker room ever lost confidence in what we were capable of doing. You don't just win 13 games in this league by accident. So we knew the formula, and it was just a matter of putting it together for 60 minutes." — Saints WR Marques Colston on his team's impressive divisional playoff win against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Saints took steps to add depth to their wide receiver corps on Wednesday by signing second-year pro Adrian Arrington from their practice squad.
Wide receiver Robert Meachem came out of Saturday's divisional playoff game with an ankle injury, although coach Sean Payton said Wednesday he doesn't think the injury is significant.
Arrington, a seventh-round draft pick in 2008, spent all of that season on injured reserve with a turf toe injury. He was released on the final cut this summer and has been on the practice squad all season.