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The Skinny Post: Vikings on Doorstep of Super Bowl Berth



EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — One win is all it takes. But it won't be easy.

The Vikings and Eagles square off in the NFC Championship on Sunday for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Kickoff is at 5:40 p.m. (CT).

A Minnesota win means the Vikings would play for their first title in 41 years. The Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship game by earning a first-round bye and then squeezing out an improbable 29-24 win over the Saints in the Divisional round.

Philadelphia reached this point by having a first-round bye and then getting a 15-10 win over Atlanta last weekend. 

The Eagles went 7-1 at home during the regular season, while the Vikings were 6-2 in road games.

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

A Narrow Focus | By**@EricLSmith**

Hey, have you heard about "The Minneapolis Miracle?”

Of course, you have. Who hasn't?

But while Stefon Diggs' incredible 61-yard touchdown catch against the Saints won't soon be forgotten, Minnesota's focus this week has been on the Eagles. Perhaps Vikings left guard Mike Remmers put it best. 

"That's all behind us now. Whatever happened last week doesn't help us this week," Remmers said.

Coming off the biggest play in franchise history, the Vikings will need to channel their emotions and lock in on Sunday's game.

You can bet Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer moved past the play pretty quickly, and implored his players to do the same. In order to beat the NFC's top seed on the road and have a chance to play in the Super Bowl, the Vikings will need to be at their best on Sunday.

That means playing with a clean slate and leaving nothing on the field in the City of Brotherly Love.

Pressuring the opposing passer | By**@LindseyMNSports**

On Sunday, former teammates Case Keenum and Nick Foles **will face each other** in the NFC Championship, each intent on leading his respective team to Super Bowl LII.

In turn, two of the league's top defenses will look to pressure the opposing quarterback. The Vikings, who finished the regular season with the NFL's No. 1 defense, understand the difference it can make in the game if they find a way to affect Foles. He took over for Carson Wentz when Wentz suffered a torn ACL against the Rams in Week 14.

According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, Foles has a passer rating of just 23.8 while under pressure. In addition, on passes that travel 20 yards or more through the air, Foles' completion percentage is just 13.3, and his passer rating is 13.8. His passer rating when the pocket is kept clean, however, is 107.8.

Keenum has been much more successful than Foles when throwing under pressure – 78.5 passer rating – but also has a significantly higher rating (109.5) from a clean pocket.

In a matchup that both teams expect to be a gritty one, Minnesota's defense finding a way to put pressure on Foles early on could be key.

Run game could be pivotal | By**@pcraigers**

The Vikings are 12-0 this season when Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combine for 100 or more yards from scrimmage.

Murray and McKinnon combined for 107 scrimmage yards last week against the Saints. Murray rushed 19 times for 50 yards and a score, and McKinnon added 34 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

Philadelphia allowed 79 rushing yards on 10 carries by Tevin Coleman last week, but limited Devonta Freeman to seven yards on 10 carries. Freeman added 26 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.

The Eagles are 6-0 when LeGarrette Blount and in-season acquisition Jay Ajayi combine for 100 or more yards from scrimmage.

Ajayi led Philadelphia with 54 rushing yards on 15 carries and added 44 receiving yards on three receptions against the Falcons. Blount rushed nine times for 19 yards, but he found the end zone for the lone touchdown by the Eagles.

In addition to being strong against the run all season, the Vikings have fared well against backs who are skilled pass catchers, but Alvin Kamara was able to total 62 receiving yards on four catches, including a 14-yard touchdown last week. 

Minnesota allowed opponents to rush for 100 or more yards six times this season (all road games), but went 4-2.

Philadelphia allowed opponents to rush for 100 or more yards six times this season (twice in home games), and went 3-3.

Substantial Stats

— The Eagles and Vikings feature the two stingiest run defenses in the NFL. Philadelphia led the league by allowing 79.2 rushing yards per game, while Minnesota was second at 83.6 yards per game. 

— Sunday's game will feature six players that scored at least eight touchdowns during the regular season. Diggs (eight receiving), Kyle Rudolph (eight receiving) and Latavius Murray (eight rushing) did so for the Vikings. Alshon Jeffrey (nine receiving), Nelson Agholor (eight receiving) and Zach Ertz (eight receiving) hit the mark for the Eagles. 

— Both Vikings kicker Kai Forbath and Eagles kicker Jake Elliott each hit 53-yard field goals in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Elliott's kick came on the final play of the first half against the Falcons, and Forbath's boot put the Vikings ahead 23-21 with just under 90 seconds remaining against the Saints.

— The top two seeds have met in the NFC title game 17 times since the NFL adopted its current playoff format in 1990. The visiting team is 6-11 in those games. 


"I just want them to play like we've played for 17 weeks. Play the same, do what they've been doing all this whole year — playing together as a team, fighting." — Zimmer on his team's mindset for Sunday.

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