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Battle in the Bayou: First possessions

NEW ORLEANS -- We’ve spent plenty of time this week discussing the challenge the Vikings will face this evening relative to crowd noise at the Superdome. They’ve tested custom-made ear plugs. My colleague Ed Werder reports quarterback Brett Favre will have a play sheet on his wristband for the first time all season.

Here’s another way the Vikings could combat the decibel level: Starting fast, something they’ve done better than most NFL teams this season.

The Vikings outscored opponents 69-29 in the first quarter of regular-season games this season. More interestingly, their performance on the first offensive and defensive drives of each game was among the NFL’s best.

Their offense scored at least a field goal on their first drive in eight of 16 games. The resulting 44 points ranked No. 5 in the NFL, according to unofficial statistics compiled by the team.

Their defense? It was the NFL’s best during the regular season on opponents’ first possessions, giving up a total of six points in 16 games.

And if the crowd recharges at halftime, the Vikings will have this performance to fall back on: Their offense led the NFL with 54 points on its first possession of the second half. Their defense ranked No. 4 by giving up 12 points in the same scenario.

Starting fast is a standard cliché in the NFL. Every team wants to do it. But with kickoff about six hours away, we can say this: Minnesota has been one of the league’s best teams at doing it all season. I can’t think of a better way to deal with what is expected to be unprecedented crowd noise at the Superdome. It won’t be as loud as the cover band I heard on Bourbon St. last night, but it will be close.