Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 12/16/11
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Brett Favre has been gone from the Minnesota Vikings for almost a year and his short, two-season stay in Minnesota is still impacting the franchise. What Favre accomplished and didn't is never more apparent as it is this week with Minnesota set to host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. It's only been 23 months since the fateful NFC Championship game on Jan. 24, 2010, when New Orleans benefited from three Favre turnovers in a 31-28 overtime victory that set two franchises on vastly divergent paths. "In my mind, it seems like eons ago," current Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "So much has transpired between that time and where we are today." The Saints ended up winning the Super Bowl two weeks later and have become a model team in the current NFL. The Vikings need two wins in their final three games to avoid the worst season in franchise history. "You really can't explain it, it's crazy," Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield said of the Vikings precipitous fall. "I really don't know what's going on. We really can't put our finger on it." New Orleans' stability at the two most important spots, quarterback and head coach, could be the biggest reason the two teams have gone in different directions. While Favre had Minnesota on the brink of a Super Bowl, his lasting impression in a Vikings' uniform might be his across-the-field interception that kept Minnesota from attempting a game-winning field goal and eventually losing in overtime. Staking his reputation to the 'ole gunslinger, former coach Brad Childress' fate ultimately matched Favre's. Both were replaced during a miserable follow-up to the magical 2009 season. Since losing in the NFC Championship game, the Vikings are 8-21, have used five quarterbacks and Frazier has taken over as coach. "Obviously (New Orleans) had continuity with coaching," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We've had a change. Personnel for them has remained mostly the same. We've had some a little bit more changeover. And they've had a veteran starting quarterback who's been in that system for a long time. We've kind of done some shuffling." With coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees leading the way, the Saints are 22-9 since the NFC Championship game and are on their way to the playoffs for the third straight season with a 10-3 mark this season heading into Sunday's game at the Metrodome. Payton and Brees each joined New Orleans in 2006 and together rebuilt a team that was once referred to as the "Aints". "I think No. 1 we've had real good continuity," Payton said, crediting consistency in ownership, management, coaching, players and staff. "I think it's something that you're constantly working at and you're either improving and going in the right direction or taking steps backward." Without stability, the Vikings have gone backward. Though each team still has 13 starters remaining from the NFC Championship game, the talent level between the two teams now is dramatic. Brees is having one of the best seasons in his career and has a chance to break the single-season passing mark held by Dan Marino. The Saints have the No. 1 offense in the league, the top passing offense and even the eight-ranked running offense. "Obviously there's been a lot that's happened over the last few years," Brees said. "This is our sixth year here now with coach Payton. The first three years here were very much a learning experience. We were all young, all still very much kind of learning our way and gaining wisdom and experience. We had to fight through adversity there and all that's paid dividends for us now at this point; just because I feel we're a veteran team that's been through a lot and we've learned the formula for winning and sustain success." It wasn't long ago Minnesota believed it was the team set up for sustained success. Now with a first-year coach and a rookie quarterback, the Vikings are left to hope they have the pieces finally in place to return to the level they were just 23 months ago. "Two years ago we was on the top and now we're completely on the bottom," receiver Percy Harvin said. "We're sitting here talking about worst record right now. It's definitely a different feeling and it's something that leaves a bitter taste in a lot of people's mouths knowing this is arguably the same team that we had." With the exception of two major differences at coach and quarterback.Peterson, Ponder listed as probable: Running back Adrian Peterson returned to full practice on Friday for the first time since sustaining a high ankle sprain in week 11 against Oakland and is listed as probable for Sunday's game against New Orleans. Peterson said Thursday he expected to play Sunday, stating he was about 85 percent with his injured ankle. Peterson responded well to increased repetitions in practice this week, but Frazier hinted he might not return to a full workload immediately because he's missed the past three games. "He's missed some time, so we'll have to kind of work him in there," Frazier said. "It wouldn't be as if he had not missed a game. So, we'll have to monitor how he's doing." Peterson leads the Vikings with 872 rushing yards and his 12 total touchdowns are tied for fourth in the league. Ponder has been a full participant in practice all week while recovering from a hip pointer injury and he is listed as probable for Sunday. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion (ankle) was the only player limited in Friday's practice, but he is listed as probable. Linebacker E.J. Henderson (shoulder), cornerback Asher Allen (shoulder), receiver Greg Camarillo (concussion) and safety Jarrad Page are probable for Sunday.
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