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Vikings vs. Eagles: 5 Storylines To Watch

Posted Dec 10, 2013

Following their games in extreme wintry conditions last week, the Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles will meet inside the warm and dry confines of Mall of America Field on Sunday in Week 15 action. The Vikings enter off a 29-26 loss to Baltimore last week in a game that featured 42 combined points in the 4th quarter, while the Eagles come to Minnesota fresh off a 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions that kept them atop the NFC East standings.

Let’s take a look at five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings and Eagles prepare to battle…

Injuries to starters, opportunities for reserves
As the season wears on, the Vikings injury report seems to grow. The Vikings aren’t just losing a starter here and there. They are losing a starter and the backup to that starter. Adrian Peterson’s (foot) status is up in the air, and so is Toby Gerhart’s (hamstring). Kyle Rudolph hasn’t played since Week 9, and John Carlson suffered a concussion in last week’s game against Baltimore. Cornerback Josh Robinson hasn’t played since Week 11 and now his backup, Xavier Rhodes (foot), may not play this Sunday. Others to watch on the injury report this week include linebacker Larry Dean (knee), right guard Brandon Fusco (knee) and safety Jamarca Sanford (ankle). Fusco left last week’s game and both Dean and Sanford were listed as questionable heading into Sunday’s game but were able to play.

With injury to one comes opportunity to another. Matt Asiata and even practice squad running back Joe Banyard could be called upon if both Peterson and Gerhart are unable to play, Joe Berger or Jeff Baca would likely be called upon if Fusco can’t play, and the Vikings depth in the secondary will be tested with Rhodes on the mend, Robinson likely out and Sanford’s status unknown.

The good news is the Vikings may be getting starting safety Harrison Smith back soon. A decision on his status will be made late this week, according to head coach Leslie Frazier.

Patterson making a late run for rookie of the year consideration
Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has been the NFL’s best kickoff returner all season. Entering Week 15, Patterson leads the NFL in kickoff return yardage (1,199), kickoff return average (33.3) and kickoff return touchdowns (two). He is 147 return yards shy of Buster Rhymes’ team record and his next kickoff return touchdown in 2013 will be a team record, as well.

Of late, though, Patterson has come on as a receiver. He had a season-high 141 receiving yards last week in Baltimore and also scored his second receiving touchdown on the year. Patterson’s 1,629 all-purpose yards rank second behind only Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (1,744), and you can’t help but wonder if the late offensive production will vault Patterson into rookie of the year consideration. Percy Harvin’s outstanding production on special teams was certainly fuel to the fire on the way to him earning rookie of the year honors, so a precedent has been set. Patterson certainly has great competition for the honor in the form of Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard, Chargers receiver Keenan Allen and Packers running back Eddie Lacy, but the Vikings rookie belongs in this class of players and should at least be in the conversation down the stretch.

Vikings

High-flying Eagles offense hits a fast track in Minnesota
In his new position as Eagles Head Coach, Chip Kelly brought with him from the University of Oregon an up-tempo, high-scoring offense. Early reviews were sensational, as the Eagles blitzed division rival Washington in Week 1 to the tune of 443 net yards and 33 points. But then the Eagles went on a three-game slide, and the critics of Kelly’s offensive philosophy came out to play. Since that three-game skid, though, the Eagles have been hitting on all cylinders. For the season, Philadelphia ranks sixth in offensive points scored (325) and third in yards per game (409.3).

Notably, the Eagles have yet to play a game inside. The fast track of Mall of America Field should suit Kelly and his cast of explosive playmakers, particularly receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy, well.

Can the Vikings contain McCoy?
Given the success dual-threat running backs have had against the Vikings this season, you can be sure containing McCoy is priority No. 1 for the Vikings defense. Last week, McCoy rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. The 2011 season is when McCoy established himself as a premier offensive threat, as he ran for 1,309 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns, with 17 of them coming on the ground. McCoy is also a threat as a receiver and is second on the Eagles this season with 40 receptions.

Philadelphia’s defense making noise, too
The identity of the Eagles team is certainly their offense, but don’t sleep on their defense, either. The Eagles have not allowed more than 21 points in a game since Week 3 (Kansas City). While the Eagles defense won’t blow you away with stats or rankings in key situations, they do create a lot of turnovers (25 – fifth in the NFL) and they benefit from a high-scoring offense that doesn’t put them in many compromising situations.