The Vikings will play in their 10th NFL/NFC title game on Sunday and they'll do so against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Here are five Vikings-Eagles storylines to watch this week during the buildup to the NFC Championship Game.
1. Vikings one win from first Super Bowl appearance in 41 years
It's the NFC Championship Game. Everyone knows a lot is on the line. But for the Vikings, a franchise with a rich history, this game represents the team's best chance since 2009 to get back to the Super Bowl, a place they haven't been in 41 years. Since the franchise's last appearance, which was Super Bowl XI following the 1976 season, there have been great seasons aplenty, only to be followed by gut-wrenching and heart-breaking defeats. Now comes an opportunity for the 2017 Vikings to put an end to the drought and return the franchise to the doorstep of history.
2. NFC title game features conference shapeshifters
The Vikings and Eagles will meet on Sunday night to determine the king of the NFC for the 2017 season, but the course that led these two franchises to this moment began just prior to the 2016 season. Vikings starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season to a knee injury, so the Vikings and Eagles consummated a trade that sent Sam Bradford to Minnesota, a 2017 first-round pick and 2018 fourth-round pick to Philadelphia and Carson Wentz to the starting lineup. Previous to that trade, Pat Shurmur left his post as Eagles quarterbacks coach following the 2015 season to join the Vikings staff and consequently from that trade the Eagles signed Nick Foles prior to the 2017 season to be their backup to Wentz. Now, Foles has stepped in for an injured Wentz to take on a team led on offense by Shurmur, who became offensive coordinator mid-season a year ago, and Case Keenum, who took over for an injured Bradford after Week 1 of this season. It's a lot to follow, but it's led everyone to this poignant moment – the NFC title game.
3. Two inspired quarterbacks face two stingy defenses
The rise to prominence for both Keenum in Minnesota and Foles in Philadelphia are inspiring stories, but there are two defenses waiting for them on Sunday night looking to take the "feel-good" out of this story. As well as each quarterback has played to guide his team to this moment, both teams are anchored by defenses that are among the best in the NFL. The Vikings have the NFL's No. 1 scoring and total defense and Philadelphia has the NFL's No. 4 scoring and total defense. The Vikings defense is No. 1 on 3rd downs and No. 2 against the pass, while the Eagles are No. 1 in the NFL in rushing defense and tops in the NFC in turnover margin ( 11). The challenge is steep for these two quarterbacks and their offenses.
4. New-look Vikings offense line set to face fierce Eagles defensive front
The Vikings offensive line has battled a top-notch defensive line every day in practice for months, but there may be no better adversarial defensive line than the one the Vikings will see on Sunday in Philadelphia. The Eagles have one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL in Fletcher Cox and they feature a rotation of four starting-caliber defensive ends – Derek Bennett, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Chris Long; the Eagles also have Minnetonka, Minn. native Beau Allen at defensive tackle. This group tallied 33 of the team's 38 sacks, the highest rate for a defensive line in the NFL this season, and they held opposing offenses to 79.2 rushing yards per game (No. 1 in the NFL) and only seven rushing touchdowns (tied-No. 3) all season. The Vikings will battle this group with a starting cast that is different than it was during the regular season. Mike Remmers has moved from right tackle to left guard and Rashod Hill has stepped into the right tackle spot; the season-ending injury to left guard Nick Easton prompted this adjustment. This new-look Vikings offensive line improved as the game wore on last week and will likely be the group that blocks for Case Keenum, Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray, et al. on Sunday night.
5. #BringItHome comes alive
The Vikings unveiled a playoff campaign two weeks ago with the tagline "Bring It Home" and they used in-stadium signage, t-shirts, rally towels and digital content to promote this campaign. The slogan is inspired by the fact that this year's Super Bowl will be played in the Vikings home stadium. The campaign was a huge success and was a key element to the atmosphere surrounding last Sunday's Divisional round win over New Orleans. Now, the "Bring It Home" theme comes to life because the Vikings must literally hit the road and go to Philadelphia for the NFC title game to earn a chance to host, play in and win Super Bowl 52.