Written by Cody Manning
Previous Matchup: The Vikings and Eagles met last season during Carson Wentz’s rookie season. The Eagles won the matchup 21–10. Both defenses forced four turnovers a piece, but it was the Eagles that were able to find the endzone, which helped lead them to victory. This time around, each team won’t be seeing their starting quarterback from that game (barring a Case Keenum injury), along with their leading rusher and receiver. The Vikings were led by Sam Bradford who threw for 224 yards with one touchdown and one interception. They were led on the ground by Matt Asiata with 55 rushing yards, and in the air by Cordarrelle Patterson, who finished with 67 yards and a touchdown. Wentz struggled that day, he only managed 138 yards, one touchdown, and had two interceptions. Philadelphia’s leading rusher was Ryan Mathews who had 56 yards, and their leading receiver was Josh Huff, only managing 39 yards. This game was determined by the defenses, which the game on Sunday may be determined by as well.
Offense: The Vikings offense showed last week that they can rely on the pass game to win games if they must. 308 of 403 total yards were all threw the air, including the miracle 61-yard pass to Stefon Diggs for the win. The offense is riding high off the win, and it may be up to Case Keenum’s arm to guide them to another victory. Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray will have a tough time sledding against the number one ranked rush defense, so it will be up to Diggs and Adam Thielen to open some lanes for the rushing attack.
The Eagles offense did enough to help get their team to victory last week. Their 3rd rank rushing attack didn’t even crack 100 yards versus Atlanta, who gave up an average of 115.4 YPG. Nick Foles managed the game and had 246 passing yards. But, there were times he overthrew his receivers, and he should have had an interception, which could have changed the result of the game. They will be facing the number one ranked defense this week, so Foles and company will need to play as close to perfect as possible to give themselves a chance to win this one.
Between the Eagles’ 3-headed monster in the backfield, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz, Philadelphia has the weapons to take on the Vikings this Sunday. But, it will be on Nick Foles to use them to give his team a shot. I expect the Vikings to attack the Eagles’ secondary with Diggs and Thielen. If this comes down to a shootout, then I will take my chances with the guy who is starting to remind me of Brett Favre, Case Keenum.
Defense: The Vikings defense came out last week and shut out the red-hot Saints defense in the first half. The Saints found a way to crack their defense, which shows they can be vulnerable at times. The Eagles will be depending on their running backs to win this game, the Vikings held Ingram and Kamara to 133 yards between the both. No offense to the Eagles’ backs, but if they can hold those two down, then it could be a long day for their offense. This game may come down to what Nick Foles can do on third down situations, Minnesota held Drew Brees to only completing 22.2% third downs.
It is going to be on the Eagles defense to help lead their team to a victory. They are going to need their talented front-seven to wreak havoc against the run like they always do, and disrupt the pocket so Keenum can’t see his passing lanes. This unit balled out last week as they held the Falcons offense to only 281 yards. Philadelphia will need them to repeat this performance as their offense may have some struggles against the vaunted Vikings defense.
I do see the Eagles’ defense giving the Vikings offense some fits throughout the game, especially by shutting down their running game to make them one-dimensional. It is going to be up to the back end of their unit to help hold down the fort and keep Minnesota out of the endzone. The difference between both defenses is that the Vikes have playmakers at all levels on their defense. I think this will show, and they will force Foles into some key turnovers throughout the game. I am going with the Vikings on this one.
Special Teams: Jake Elliott proved that he can handle the playoff stage and helped lead his team to victory behind his leg. He made three field goals, which included a 53 yarder. Even though he did miss one early in the game, Kai Forbath also made some big field goals last week as well, which included the potential game winner 53 yarder with 1:34 left in the game. Each one of them proved they can be relied on if it comes to a field goal, but Elliott is used to kicking outdoors so I will give him the edge on this one.
Coaching: I believe both coaches should be candidates for the Coach of the Year award. They both showed that they can adapt to injuries and still lead their teams to victories. Both won their division, and earned first-round byes. Last week, Doug Pederson and Mike Zimmer proved that they can go up against coaches with playoff experience. I feel like both are even, and this is a stage for them to show off their coaching abilities to a national audience.
Prediction: This matchup is going to come down be the defenses and which ones can make a play during a crucial moment of the game. I like to look at situational football, and on third downs, the Vikings held opponents to 51/202 (25.2%) on third downs this season, the best third down defense since tracking conversions in 1991. I see this as a defensive game for majority of the game, but Minnesota will find ways to force turnovers, and get into the endzone. After the Minneapolis Miracle, I can’t deny their destiny.
Vikings win 20–6