Here's another key matchup in Sunday's Vikings-Saints game in Minnesota:
Vikings DE Jared Allen vs. Saints OLT Jermon Bushrod
There is some tasty irony in this battle, as the Vikings tried to sign Bushrod to replace Bryant McKinnie as their left tackle. They failed, leaving a giant hole at the position (a role in which Charlie Johnson has failed) and the Saints have not missed too many beats offensively.
Allen is primed for this matchup becaause he is five sacks away from surpassing Michael Strahan's league record of 22½, set in 2001, and knows that the Saints' passing game will give him ample chances to take down QB Drew Brees. But the Saints run a lot of three- and five-step drops, and Brees doesn't go down frequently.
Bushrod did a good job head-to-head against Allen the last time they met, in the 2009 NFC championship game. Brees didn't have his best individual game, but he mostly was kept upright and Allen was fairly neutralized in the game. In addition, Bushrod has had a good individual season after a nightmarish game in a shocking Saints loss to the Rams earlier this season. The entire Saints line struggled in that game.
Allen doesn't have a huge arsenal of pass-rush moves; instead, he has three or four go-to techniques he relies heavily on and is exceptional at them. There has been some criticsm that Allen never comes off the field, trying to poach late-game sacks in meaningless situations, but there is no question that this season has been one of his finest. He plays full tilt and can wear down opponents with his sheer effort alone.
This one isn't merely a pass-rushing exercise, either. The Saints run the ball far more effectively than they did a year ago, and Bushrod has been an anchor. Allen does a good job against the run with great backside pursuit, but he can be taken on with lead power plays.