At the outset of the season, if we had told you the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings would be in the NFC Championship Game, you would have expected a duel between Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz.
Instead, we have Nick Foles, a man who seriously considered retiring from football years ago and has hung around as a journeyman backup instead, against Case Keenum, a man who literally no one wanted and was brought to Minnesota to hold the backup seat just long enough for Teddy Bridgewater to get over his torn-up knee.
Vikings Playoff History
The Vikings are no strangers to the NFC Championship Game having gotten here eight times in the past. However, the history since the mid-1970s hasn’t been good.
Minnesota has lost its last five trips to the NFC title game, and some of the results have been heartbreaking. The team was beaten in overtime twice in that span, most recently against the team it just dismissed from the postseason, New Orleans, in the 2006 playoffs.
The Vikes have also had no luck outdoors or against the Eagles in the postseason. They’ve lost their last three outdoor playoff games and have dropped all three of their postseason games against Philadelphia. All three losses to the Eagles came by double digits.
Eagles Playoff History
Andy Reid is credited with making the Eagles relevant in the NFC East again, but he was dismissed largely due to the fact that he couldn’t win the biggest playoff games. He went just 1-4 in his five NFC Championship Game appearances.
That said, the last time the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl, they beat the Falcons and Vikings to get there. Deja vu much?
Why Minnesota Will Beat the Eagles
The magical story of Keenum is as good as it gets in the NFL right now. Keenum was never that bad of a starting quarterback either in Houston or Los Angeles, but because he was an undrafted rookie out of Houston, he was never really given much of a fair chance. Now, he’s about to be a very rich man who gets a deal somewhere – perhaps right here in Minnesota – to be a full-time starting quarterback in 2018.
Thus, it was only fitting that Keenum was able to find Stefon Diggs on what turned out to be the first-ever fourth quarter “walk-off” touchdown in NFL playoff history.
On the other side of the ball, rushing is practically impossible against the Vikes. Their front four is as good as any in the NFL, and the Saints couldn’t get anything going with either Alvin Kamara or Mark Ingram. If Jay Ajayi and the rest of the Philadelphia running back stable can’t get going on Sunday night, we have a tough time imagining Foles leading the Eagles to a victory.
Why Philadelphia Will Beat the Vikings
Foles really just has to not screw this game up. The guys in Vegas don’t think he’s capable of doing so, but we saw him play a pretty darn flawless game last week against Atlanta. Was Foles a superstar? Far from it. But 23-for-30 for 246 yards without a turnover will ultimately win most games for the Eagles.
Let’s not forget that Foles has two major weapons to throw the ball to in Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffrey. Both are monsters near the red zone and could give the solid Minnesota secondary fits like Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn did last week.
For our money, Fletcher Cox is also the best player on the field. He was a one-man wrecking crew against Atlanta, and Keenum is going to have a really tough time getting through this game without blunders if Cox is again able to dominate in the middle of the defensive line.
Vikings vs. Eagles Prediction
We fail to understand what really makes the Vikings any better with Keenum than the Eagles are with Foles at the moment. If nothing else, Foles was here in Philly with a playoff team years ago when Chip Kelly was the head coach. Sure, the Eagles were beaten in their first playoff game that season, but at least that gave Foles some experience at this level.
Keenum legitimately looked scared against the Saints. Though he did bring the team back from deficits twice in the fourth quarter, if we’re being honest, the Vikes shouldn’t be here right now. They were certainly more lucky than good. Though that counts for something, at some point, luck runs out. Playing on the road in freezing conditions should be the end of Minnesota in what should be an ugly, defense-oriented game.
Vikings vs. Eagles Pick: Philadelphia 16, Minnesota 10
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