Brett Favre, Vikings Try to Overcome Turnovers in NFL Opener vs Saints

Brett Favre remembers the mental and physical pain from the Minnesota Vikings’ overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints in last year’s conference championship.

Favre also recalls that the Vikings’ offense played well, piling up 475 yards and 31 first downs against the eventual Super Bowl champions. Five Minnesota turnovers, including three in the fourth quarter, ultimately led to a 31-28 defeat and ended their 2009 campaign.

Favre, at age 40, is back this season for another shot at his second Super Bowl title. He’ll get an early chance to avenge last season’s disappointment tonight with the Vikings visiting the Saints in the National Football League’s opening game.

“No disrespect, but we opened up with Cleveland last year,” Favre said this week about his Vikings’ debut in 2009. “It wasn’t as loud. We were able to control the game, run the football as we had hoped, and for me to kind of ease into it. This is a different opening.”

The Saints are six-point favorites on Bodog.com, an Internet gambling site.

After beating the Vikings for the National Football Conference championship last season, the Saints won the first Super Bowl title in the franchise’s 43-year history.

“I don’t think you ever completely get over it,” said Favre, a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player. “We don’t turn the ball over, it’s a different ball game.”

New Orleans is seeking to become the NFL’s first repeat champion since the New England Patriots won consecutive titles after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. First-time Super Bowl winners have a 12-4-1 record in their opening game the next season.

‘Sense of Urgency’

“There still is a sense of urgency,” said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was voted Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. “Nobody around here is relaxing. Everybody around here still feels like we have so much to prove.”

Perhaps no team has as much to prove coming into the season as the New York Jets, said Dan Marino, a Hall of Fame quarterback who’s now an NFL analyst for CBS Sports.

The Jets fell one win short of the Super Bowl in their first season with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and coach Rex Ryan, who has predicted a title this year. The Jets, who open the season Sept. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens, were also featured in the preseason HBO series “Hard Knocks.”

“They’ve put a lot of pressure on themselves with talking about how good they’re going to be,” Marino said on a media conference call. “They still have a young quarterback who’s not completely proven yet. They have all the necessary ingredients to make a run. To me it’s, “How is Mark Sanchez going to handle the beginning of the season, and if it doesn’t go well, what do they do then?’”

The Jets are 2 1/2-point favorites, according to Bodog.com.

Roethlisberger’s Ban

The Pittsburgh Steelers are another team to watch closely early in the season, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will sit out four games because of a league suspension, said former Steelers coach and CBS analyst Bill Cowher. Dennis Dixon starts the season at quarterback for the Steelers, who have won seven straight opening-week games, the league’s longest active streak and tied for the fourth-best since 1970.

“When you start to challenge them with some things they can’t do, they have a lot of players that respond to that.” Cowher said of the Steelers, whose six Super Bowl titles are the most of any franchise.

The Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles are among other teams that open the season with significant quarterback changes.

Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins after going to the Pro Bowl six times during 11 seasons in Philadelphia, where Kevin Kolb takes over as the starter for the Eagles.

McNabb’s Fresh Start

The Redskins finished last in the NFC East with a 4-12 record last season and have a new coach in two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan. Washington opens the season by hosting the division-rival Dallas Cowboys in the night game on Sept. 12.

“I always liked Donovan as a player,” Marino said. “He maybe did not get the respect over the years for the things he’s been able to accomplish. The thing that’s going to be interesting is how he’s going to adapt to a new system, jumping in there with a new coach, new philosophy and new players.”

Jason Campbell, Washington’s quarterback last season, is now the starter for the Raiders, who went 5-11.

Like the Jets with Sanchez last year, the Rams will go with a rookie at quarterback in No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford.

St. Louis had an NFL-worst 1-15 record in 2009 and enters this season with the longest odds to win the Super Bowl among the NFL’s 32 teams, at 150-1. The Indianapolis Colts are the favorites at 13-2, followed by the Saints and Cowboys at 8-1, according to oddsmakers at Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

“Everybody has great hope, everybody is a believer,” former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms said of the start of the NFL season. “It takes five or six weeks before you get a handle on teams, what they’re about and who has a chance to make something happen as the year goes along.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

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