words_Nick Engvall

Tonight at 8:30 EST, the dog days of summer officially come to an end for NFL football fans as the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in Louisiana. Tonight’s game between two of the top five teams in the NFL Power Rankings could be one of the best matchups ever for an opening game. Tonight’s rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, which could arguably have been the best football game of the entire 2009 season, is a perfect way to open the 2010 season.

The stakes may not be as high as a trip to the Super Bowl, however both teams have a lot on the line when it comes to starting off the 2010-2011 season.

Saints and Vikings kickoff more than the NFL Football SeasonFor the Vikings, and more specifically Brett Favre (as it has been for the last five seasons), this could be it. Favre’s 2009 season was one of the best in his career. Even down to the NFC Championship loss against the Saints, where he threw for 310 yards. Like it has his entire career, though, it was interceptions that plagued Favre in that game and ultimately prevented him from a shot at finally getting his ring. This season could be the season for Favre, though. If you look at last season as a stepping stone to this one, then the next step is the big game. The first step is tonight, and it will be interesting to see if Favre and the Vikings can overcome the road blocks they seem to have encountered in the preseason.

Tonight they’ll have to go at the defending champion Saints without one of their top offensive options, Sidney Rice, who is on the injured list for the next six weeks or so. Another concern that has been a nagging issue during the preseason is Percy Harvin’s plaguing migraines. The Vikings offense will have to rely on Favre and Adrian Peterson not only to keep up with the Saints tonight, but to give them a shot at even getting to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium.

In New Orleans, the fans are still celebrating last season’s Super Bowl Championship. Rightfully so, as the city has dealt with so many disasters in recent years that the “Who Dat Nation” is looking for a reason to keep celebrating their team all the way to back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

Only seven teams have won back-to-back Super Bowl titles, most recently the Patriots in 2005. For the Saints, it is different, though. The fans outside of the city, outside of the state, and even outside of the country seem to have a soft spot for their success (even if it is a very minimal microscopic soft spot for fans of fellow NFC South teams, it is there). That soft spot has the potential to open up to one of the most powerful legacies that the sport has seen in a long time.

The Saints have no prominent weaknesses. There defense is not the greatest, but it only needs to be good enough to keep the offense on top, and their offensive attack behind Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees is relentless. With Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush as options coming out of the backfield, their offense is potent even without a mention of the wideouts. For the Saints it doesn’t stop in the back field; it continues on to one of the most diversely capable set of wide receivers in the league. Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem both put up career highs in yards received last season. In addition, they’ve brought back the teams top receiver Marques Colston and the energy of tight end Jeremy Shockey, which could very well mean last season was just a warm-up for them.

Tonight’s game is more than just a season kickoff. It could be the kickoff to the resolve of the Who Dat Nation legacy, or it could be the kickoff to placing the final touches on Brett Favre’s storied career.

Either way, it’s a kickoff we’ve all been waiting for.