After closely-contested victories in the Divisional round, the Vikings and Eagles have advanced to the NFC Championship Game and will battle tonight at Lincoln Financial Field for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl
Here are a few final thoughts on the matchup.
Get hot in the red zone
Top-notch defensive efforts are expected tonight, which means every possession will matter. And the possessions that advance as far as the red zone matter the most. The Vikings and Eagles are red zone heavyweights, which makes this subplot even more interesting. The Eagles boast the NFL’s No. 2 red zone offense (63.8%) while the Vikings were No. 2 in red zone defense (43.2%) this season. In a game where points figure to be at a premium, penetrating the red zone will be a challenge and touchdowns rather than field goals will put tremendous pressure on the opposing offense to match score for score.
Elflein’s big challenge (and opportunity)
Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He is equally disruptive versus the pass and run and he rarely exits the game. There’s a chance the pundits are correct and he will end up making life very difficult for the Vikings offense. It’s a big challenge for rookie center Pat Elflein and the interior of the Vikings offensive line. It’s also a big opportunity for Elflein. There’s no law that says Elflein can’t step up to the challenge and work with Joe Berger and Mike Remmers to help mitigate Cox’s ability to disrupt the offense. This matchup on the interior will have a massive impact on the game.
Key number: 2 turnovers
It takes two. A pair of takeaways or a pair of giveaways is key for the Eagles. Philadelphia is 10-0 when turning it over fewer than two times and they are 9-0 when forcing two or more turnovers. All three of the Eagles losses this season came in games in which they committed two turnovers. Suggesting turnovers will be key to the outcome is not breaking news, but these stats do tell the story that every possession matters against the Eagles. Points are at a premium in this matchup and losing a possession and giving great field position via giveaway or gaining a possession and great field position via takeaway will likely drastically impact the chances of winning the game.
Stat of the Week
Eagles points per game allowed in the last five HOME games: 9.0
Vikings fans have been delighted in watching their defense hold opposing teams off the scoreboard this season. Vikings fans will not be delighted to know that Philadelphia’s defense has been similarly stingy in home games this season. In their last six home games, the Eagles have surrendered just five offensive touchdowns.
Quote of the week
It’s our team, we have a group of fighters, guys that fight until the end until the clock hits zero. Especially the guys on offense. Half the guys on offense nobody wanted.” – Stefon Diggs
It’s an interesting point by Diggs. Case Keenum was undrafted and is playing for his third team. The Vikings signed running back Latavius Murray and starting offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers after their teams let them hit free agency. Adam Thielen was undrafted, Diggs was a fifth-round pick. But this group has come together nicely and they’ve transformed the offense from a group that was dragged along by the defense to one that is pulling its own weight.
Zach Ertz – In a game where the Eagles will look to get the ball out of Nick Foles’ hands as soon as possible to neutralize the Vikings pass rush, Ertz will be key. He was targeted 110 times by Eagles quarterbacks this season, including 25 times in Foles’ three starts.
Malcolm Jenkins – He is their Harrison Smith. He can cover, he can support the run and he can blitz. He plays on all three levels of the defense and he can even line up in the slot.
Wide nine – This is a technique where each defensive end lines up wide of where the tight end is/would be on either side of the formation. It can make it difficult to get on the perimeter in the run game and to throw passes in the flats. It requires communication and teamwork from the offensive tackles and tight ends in order to properly block it. It’s not a technique every defense uses, but it’s one the Eagles use and one they use well.
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">National Television: FOX
</span>Play-by-play: Joe Buck
Analyst: Troy Aikman
Sideline: Erin Andrews, Chris Myers
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">National Radio: Westwood One Sports
</span>Play-by-play: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Trent Green
Sideline: Ross Tucker
<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130</span>
Play-by-play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber