NFC Championship

NFL: An Early Look At The NFC Championship Game

After an amazing divisional playoff round, the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles will do battle in the NFC Championship Game this coming Sunday. Here is an early preview of the match-up between the two teams.

Injuries

Throughout the 2017 season, both teams suffered major personnel losses, but enter championship weekend with relatively few questions about their current rosters. One player, each team will monitor this week is Minnesota free safety Andrew Sendejo. He went into the concussion protocol Sunday. All-pro CB Xavier Rhodes also got banged up against the Saints but should be fine with a few days to recover.

QUICK HITS

1. Past Meeting Means Nothing

The Vikings and Eagles did not meet during the 2017 regular season. However, they did go at it in Week 7 of the 2016 season, when the Eagles handed the Vikings their first loss of the season, which began a spiral from a 5-0 start to an 8-8 finish. Anyway, one would have to throw away the game film, as the starting quarterbacks were Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz. Vikings right guard Joe Berger is the only holdover from Minnesota’s O-line, and he was playing center last year. The Eagles running backs were Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. The defenses are recognizable but both feature plenty of changes, especially at corner and on the lines.

2. A Familiar Look To Both Teams

The similarities between the two teams are quite stunning. Quarterbacks Case Keenum and Nick Foles, who were teammates with the 2015 St. Louis Rams, began the season as backups, and were considered to be more like career journeymen than Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Both will face dominant D-lines on Sunday. The Vikings and Eagles have deep units that are able to cause havoc all day. However, both can take advantage of spotty pass defenses if they can evade the rush long enough to distribute the ball to their deep corps of backs and receivers. Both teams are also committed to establishing the run and stopping it. Eagles running back Jay Ajayi averaged nearly 6 yards per carry in seven regular-season games after his trade from Miami, and the Vikings average anywhere from 25-35 carries per game to wear down opposing defenses.

3. Mistakes Are Key

The Falcons scored 10 points this past Saturday off of two Eagles giveaways. These are the miscues that could be fatal to ANY team in the playoffs. This time, you have a top-ranked Vikings defense that allowed a league-low 15.8 points per game in the regular season. In fact, one who blanked the Saints in the first half Sunday. After halftime, the Vikings defense appeared mortal, as the Saints burned them for 24 points, and required “The Minneapolis Miracle”. Given how alike Minnesota and Philadelphia are, mistakes are likely to be magnified in what promises to be a nip-and-tuck affair. One turnover, blown assignment or special teams lapse could very well be the difference. Especially if the weather further depresses offensive output.

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Nick Ficorelli

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