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The Skinny Post: Vikings, Eagles Meet in NFC Title Game Rematch

EAGAN, Minn. — A pair of teams looking to gain traction meet Sunday in a rematch of the NFC Championship.

The Vikings and Eagles met in the conference title game less than nine months ago, and they're ready for another battle in Philadelphia. Kickoff is at 3:25 p.m. (CT).

Minnesota is 1-2-1 on the season after falling to the Rams in Week 4 on Thursday Night Football in Los Angeles.

The Vikings had a few extra days off to prepare for the Eagles, who are 2-2 after Philadelphia couldn't hold leads in both the four quarter and overtime before losing to the Titans.

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Find a way | By @Eric_L_Smith

The opportunities have been there for the Vikings.

In Week 2 at Green Bay, Minnesota missed two field goals in overtime that could have turned a tie into a win. And in Week 4 in Los Angeles, a potential game-tying drive was thwarted by a strip-sack on quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Cash in on both, or even one of those chances, and the Vikings have at least two wins during a tough stretch to start the season. Instead, a tie and narrow loss bookended an ugly defeat at home by Buffalo.

Minnesota now begins its second quarter of the 2018 season with a trip to Philadelphia.

And if the Vikings are in a position to grab control of the game once again, they'd be wise to take advantage. Road wins in the NFL aren't easy to come by, and the Vikings are nearing a point where they need to start stacking wins in order to keep pace with the hot start by the Bears.

The task this week isn't hard to figure out: find a way to get a win.

Running to keep the Eagles honest | By @LindseyMNSports

Will the Vikings get their ground game up and running at Philadelphia?

Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said Thursday that no one wants to run the ball more than he does, but he also emphasized that multiple factors need to be considered when talking about a "balanced offense." Mixing in the run with the pass is important, to be sure. DeFilippo reminded, however, that situations – including playing from behind or evaluating an opponent's depleted secondary – also dictate the play calls.

"We're going to try to establish [the run] and continue to keep grinding on that," DeFilippo said. "But at the same time, there's a fine line of doing something just to do something and maybe taking some success away from your team."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins showed against the Rams that he's capable of connecting with his receivers for a high-powered offense that doesn't need to heavily rely on the run.

But will Minnesota be able to mix in enough efficient runs to keep Philadelphia's defense on its toes?

The Vikings have averaged 63 rushing yards per game, and the Eagles have allowed their opponents an average of 63.8 rushing yards. It's a tough matchup, but a few effective rushes will help Minnesota keep Philadelphia's defense honest on Sunday.

How does the defense respond? | By @pcraigers

For the first time under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have had opponents score 27 or more points in three consecutive games.

This should be accompanied with a slight asterisk because of the offense losing the ball at or inside the Minnesota 25-yard line twice in its first six plays against Buffalo.

The Vikings, however, have allowed more big plays in 2018 than what has been customary in the past four seasons.

In Week 4, the Rams had eight passes gain 23 or more yards, and they scored on plays of 70, 47 and 31 yards on the way to putting up 38 points on Thursday Night Football in Los Angeles. Road teams are now 0-5 in Thursday games this season, by the way.

The tradeoff of playing on Thursday is that the Vikings have had extended time to review what has caused problems and find solutions before this week's game in Philadelphia.

The Eagles downed the Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game in January, causing some to ask if Philadelphia provided a blueprint, but that's a notion that the Vikings have scoffed at this week.

Zimmer heavily criticized the Vikings pass coverage after Los Angeles and theorized on the next day that "overcoaching" could be one of the problems.

Xavier Rhodes this week talked about a "domino effect" that the Vikings must stop.

Will the Vikings embody a back-to-basics approach, or maybe try a new package or two that Minnesota has had more time to implement?

Substantial Stats

— Cousins ranks third in the NFL with 1,387 passing yards. That is also a franchise mark through the first four games of a season.

— Vikings rookie cornerback Mike Hughes is one of four players this season with a forced fumble, an interception and a defensive touchdown. The others are Khalil Mack, Bud Dupree and former Vikings safety Antone Exum, Jr.

— Philadelphia's defense ranks first in the NFL by allowing 63.8 rushing yards per game. The Vikings offense ranks last in rushing at 63.0 yards per game.

— The Vikings and Eagles combined for just six regular-season losses in 2017 as both teams went 13-3. The teams have combined for four losses through the first four games of 2018.


"This isn't a time for 'woe is me.' If people remember, we were 2-2 this time last year. We finished 13-3. We were 5-0 the year before, and we finished 8-8. We were 2-2 the year before that, and we finished 11-5. So all the predictors — this isn't a good time to predict."

— Zimmer on the state of the Vikings.