EDEN PRAIRIE -- The past weekend reinforced Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green's philosophy on playoff football.
"The one thing that showed up is that you've got to be physical in the playoffs," Green said. "You had four teams that won because they controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and played some physical football."
The Vikings also learned Saturday that their NFC playoff opponent will be the New Orleans Saints, who knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams 31-28 for their first playoff victory in franchise history.
Miami 23, Indianapolis 17, OT
New Orleans 31, St. Louis 28
Sunday, Dec. 31
Baltimore 21, Denver 3
Philadelphia 21, Tampa Bay 3
Saturday, Jan. 6
New Orleans at Minnesota, 11:30 a.m. (FOX)
Miami at Oakland, 3 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Jan. 7
Baltimore at Tennessee, 11:30 a.m. (CBS)
Philadelphia at New York Giants, 3:15 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Jan. 14
AFC-NFC Championship Games (CBS, FOX)
Sunday, Jan. 28
5 p.m, at Tampa, Fla. (CBS)
Green said he predicted that significant leaps would be made by the Saints and San Diego Chargers. He was half-right. The Saints, 3-13 last season, are among only 14 NFL teams that have gone from worst to first in their division since 1970.
"They had some good pickups," Green said. "They were able to use money the right way on unrestricted free agency. They made a little hay. What a lot of other people couldn't do, they were able to do."
The weekend's four playoff winners also were home teams, but that means little in this case. The Vikings feel invincible at the Metrodome, where they are 7-1. The Saints feel invincible on the road, where they are 7-1.
Being favored by more than a touchdown also means little to Green.
"The four teams that got knocked out were good teams," Green said. "Three of them were favored to win the ballgame. That tells you what the favorite means. It doesn't carry any significance at all."
INJURY UPDATE: Daunte Culpepper showed up at Winter Park on Monday, the players' day off. He still wore a protective walking boot on his sprained right ankle and backed off slightly when he was asked if the ankle feels a zillion times better than two weeks ago.
"Probably only a million," Culpepper said with a grin.
Offensive tackle Korey Stringer's right knee, hyperextended in the season finale with Indianapolis, also is making good progress.
NOTES: The Vikings will tie the San Francisco 49ers for second-most playoff games by one franchise when they play in their 38th playoff game Saturday. The Dallas Cowboys have played in 53 playoff games. ... If Randy Moss catches a touchdown pass in his fifth consecutive playoff game, he will tie James Lofton for second-longest streak in playoff history. ... Gary Anderson needs one PAT to pass George Blanda as the all-time playoff leader. Anderson, who has 49 extra points in the playoffs, already is the all-time playoff leader with 133 points and 28 field goals. ... The Vikings have the second-largest offensive line in the playoff field, at 320.4 pounds per lineman. ... New Orleans wide receiver Joe Horn (ankle) and cornerback Alex Molden (concussion) said they expect to play against the Vikings despite getting injured against the Rams.
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