Posted on January 17, 2018, by Travis Pulver
It would have been easy for the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles to write the 2017 season off as lost to injuries. Losing Sam Bradford was bad enough, but losing Dalvin Cook as well should have been the end of the Vikings. The same could be said for the Eagles when Carson Wentz went down with an injury.
But instead, both teams found ways to overcome injuries to major players and earn a spot in the NFC Championship Game– with former Rams quarterbacks at the helm.
Both have strong defenses that make it hard for opposing offenses to move the ball. Due to his track record, Case Keenum has had his work cut out for him turning fans into believers. Few believed in Nick Foles prior to last Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, but he was able to get the job done.
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Of course, Keenum has converted many over the course of the season and Foles has only had a couple of weeks. Both will be put to the test on Sunday against the other’s defense. The one that can rise above will likely be who moves on to the Super Bowl.
So—who’s going to win?
The Eagles didn’t take too well to making history in the divisional round, but to make it to the NFC Championship game they will have to do it again. The oddsmakers have made them underdogs at home once again (-3).
Once again, it is not hard to understand why. Yes, Nick Foles played well last week against a decent Atlanta Falcons defense. But he doesn’t have a great history and this time he is playing the best defense in the NFL (and second-best pass defense).
If the Eagles offense is going to succeed, they are going to have to establish the run. They will certainly have to do a better job than they did against the Falcons (32 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown). But it is not going to be any easier this time. The Falcons had the ninth-best run defense in the league; the Vikings have the second best.
But if the Eagles defense can do its job, the offense may not need Foles to do too much. The key will be keeping Case Keenum from getting on the same page with Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs. They put a decent amount of pressure on Matt Ryan last week (three sacks, 11 QB hits), but it will not be as easy to get to Keenum.
If they can’t get to him, the Eagles may be in trouble. Minnesota runs just enough to keep defenses from focusing on the passing game. But the passing game is where they do the most damage. So, if they struggle against it, the advantage will be with the Vikings.
Philadelphia’s best shot is to withstand the onslaught for the first three-quarters of the game. If they are within striking distance in the fourth quarter of a low scoring game, they will have a shot at stealing a win. But it will have to be real close. The Vikings defense has been stingy with points in the fourth quarter this season giving up just 4.8 points on average in the final quarter. But they did allow 17 to the Saints and 14 to the Panthers.
So, there is a chance.
But the likely hood that the game is close is slim. Atlanta’s offense has been lackluster this season while the Vikings offense has been explosive. Containing them for four quarters is easier said than done—unless Keenum has a bad day.
He’s completed at least 70 percent of his throws in eight games and threw multiple interceptions (2) just twice. Keenum is much more likely to have a good day then a bad one. So—who’s going to win?
The Eagles defense will not be able to disrupt Keenum enough. Foles will not have near the success this week as he did last week. Look for the Vikings to win by six.