(note to Jets fans: I do this column every week, so don't freak out that we are overlooking your team)
Obviously, nothing is in the bag yet, but should the Colts be fortunate enough to advance tomorrow, we'll all be glued to the NFC Championship game to see who they would be playing in Miami.
The Saints/Vikes matchup is a difficult one to parse because both teams are excellent at different areas of the game and in some ways neither is an attractive matchup for the Colts. Demond and I argued the point this week, so I'm going to take a crack at arguing the Vikings are the best matchup for the Colts and maybe later he'll show up take on the Saints.
I think Indy would rather face Minnesota than New Orleans because I honestly just think the Saints are the better team. I break it down like this:
Better Coach: Payton over Childress (and it's a landslide). Payton is more likely to come up with a good scheme on offense to beat the Colts D, and he's far less likely to butcher the clock at the end of the half and game.
Better QB: Brees over Favre (by quite a bit). Favre is more likely to get sacked (the Vikes are middle of the pack in adjusted sack rate) and more likely to make a stupid throw under pressure. It feels like now is Drew Brees's time whereas Favre is playing on muscle memory at this point.
Better Secondary: I don't worry too much about defensive lines, because we've learned that Peyton isn't going down no matter what. The question is who can cover the Colts WRs. This isn't close. While the overall DVOA for the two defenses is almost identical, they are polar opposites. The Vikes play great run D, and are AWFUL on pass defense. The Saints are the reverse. I'd much rather play the team that can't stop the pass.
Better Run Game: Believe it or not, the numbers are clear. The Saints have the most efficient run game in the NFL. The Vikings are 23rd in FO's rankings one spot BEHIND the Colts.
I would always rather play a stupid coach, a QB who could go off half cocked, a crapy secondary and a team that struggles to run.
There are advantages the Vikes have though. They are have incredible special teams. They are third in the league, mostly due to insane kickoff return numbers. The Saints are near the bottom. However, now that Reggie Bush is returning kicks, perhaps that advantage for the Vikes becomes a wash.
The Vikings also have a better defensive line, whereas the Saints rely on blitzes. Ooooh, we love Manning against the blitz.
Taken as a whole, I can't see the Saints losing tomorrow night, but if the Colts advance first, I'll certainly be rooting for the Vikings to be their opponent.