KEYS TO THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:
QB Brett Favre threw four touchdown passes last weekend, but the Vikings would be wise to try to get RB Adrian Peterson untracked early. Peterson has gone eight consecutive games without rushing for 100 yards as the run-blocking has been spotty. But while the Saints have an active, ballhawking secondary that will try to bait Favre into dangerous throws downfield, New Orleans is vulnerable to the run. A strong ground game would not only let Favre work off more play-action, but also help take the crowd out of the game. ... The Saints had a 34-32 run-pass ratio last weekend, getting back to the type of balance that propelled them to a 13-0 start. Of course, it helps to be grinding out a big lead, but RBs Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell need to make some headway against Minnesota’s stout run defense. If not, the Vikings’ front four could dominate for a second consecutive week. LT Jermon Bushrod will get some help against DE Jared Allen on QB Drew Brees’ blind side, and the Vikings’ secondary will be overmatched if Brees has time in the pocket.