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Final Thoughts: Vikings vs. Eagles

Posted Dec 15, 2013

In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It’s hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I’m sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs. Eagles preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.

As we sit here just hours before kickoff, I thought I’d try to cover a few more bases and provide a few final thoughts on the Vikings game against the Eagles.

Next man up for Vikings
The Vikings come into today’s game against Philadelphia extremely banged up. We hear Vikings coaches speak of the “next man up” philosophy often, and today that philosophy will be practiced to the extreme. It’s great that Harrison Smith will make his return to the field, but it’s not great that Chris Cook (questionable), Xavier Rhodes (doubtful) and Josh Robinson (placed on IR) are all unlikely to play. John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph won’t play. Both Toby Gerhart and Adrian Peterson could be out. Point is, the Vikings depth will be tested today.

As we’ve discussed this week, injuries bring opportunities. Third-string running back Matt Asiata and practice squad running back Joe Banyard, who was promoted to the 53-man roster, will likely have an opportunity to step up for their team. Tight end Chase Ford should see the field plenty today. And depending on what happens with Cook and Rhodes, a few young cornerbacks will face a serious test against this Philadelphia passing game.

McCoy is dangerous, but Foles may be the key
All week we’ve discussed how good Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is. And he is good, no question. McCoy is the NFL’s leading rusher and he is second on his team in receptions. The Vikings must identify where he is on every snap, diagnose what he’s doing after the snap, and tackle well when he has the ball.

With that being said, quarterback Nick Foles may actually be the key to Philadelphia’s offense. In under-the-radar-like fashion, Foles is the NFL’s highest-rated passer (120.0). Yes, he has a higher passer rating than even Peyton Manning (112.9). The reason Foles tops the chart in passer rating is his ability to avoid mistakes – he has just one interception compared to 20 passing touchdowns and he’s taken just 17 sacks on the season.

There’s no question, the Vikings must stop Philadelphia’s rushing attack today. But there’s also no question the Vikings must disrupt Foles today, too. The reason the Vikings have a chance to do that is because of a pair of productive pass-rushing defensive ends in Jared Allen and Brian Robison. Both are sitting on 7.0 sacks for the season, and it’ll be fun to watch them race to the wire for the team lead in sacks. Hopefully they both take a couple more steps toward a double-digit sack total today.

More single-high safety vs. Vikings offense?
Last week we discussed how much the Vikings offense would see a single-high safety look from the Baltimore Ravens defense and we also discussed how important it would be for the Vikings to either A) block well against that look or B) change to a passing play to take advantage of single coverage against that look. That theory took a bit of a back seat because of the outrageous weather conditions.

But that theory returns again this week because I anticipate the Eagles will play a ton of single-high safety, as well, even if neither Gerhart nor Peterson plays. The Eagles are an aggressive defense, so don’t be surprised if they bring pressure (rushing linebackers) and blitzes (rushing defensive backs) often out of the single-high safety look. The key is for Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel to diagnose what the Eagles are doing and adjust accordingly. Cassel can do this and he can do it well – he changed from a pass to a run last week on Gerhart’s 41-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter. Cassel may have to make that type of adjustment with frequency today, and it may be more of changing from a run to a pass to adjust for the Eagles crowding the box, even against a Gerhart and Peterson-less backfield.

All Mall of America Field Team to be recognized today
Just two games remain in the history of Mall of America Field entering today. One neat sideshow that will happen during today’s game is that the All Mall of America Field Team will be recognized. Fans voted for the last several weeks on this team and today their choices will be honored at the game.

Twitter Takeover!
Another fun sideshow to today’s game is the fact that Daunte Culpepper and Chris Doleman will take over the Vikings official Twitter account (@Vikings) from 11-11:30 a.m.

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