We’re just two days away from the NFC Championship game. Nick Foles vs Case Keenum. Philadelphia vs Minnesota. Disrespected underdog vs a team coming off of an intense emotional win. That final matchup is just one of five reasons why we could actually see an Eagles blowout this weekend.
What’s wrong with being confident?
The Eagles are soaring with confidence right now. By all accounts, there’s one player in particular who’s thriving this week in practice; Nick Foles. The Eagles quarterback caught fire in the second half of the win over Atlanta, stringing together some impressive passes and sustaining drives deep into enemy territory. Foles doesn’t have to be perfect, just competent. A hard-fought win over the Falcons where he was able to ignite chemistry with his receivers, spreading the ball around to nine different targets, has certainly gone down well.
There is no questioning that Foles seemed shaky at the start of the game. He struggled to make simple throws and his pocket presence was nearly non-existent. But one week on and a string of practices that have exuded belief later and Foles could be primed for one of those games only the six-year veteran can seem to pluck from thin air…and that could be very problematic for Minnesota.
The emotional win:
If it wasn’t for one of the most miraculous plays in NFL history, it would be the New Orleans Saints facing the Eagles this week. Minnesota were up 17-0 and a last-gasp play prevented a fantastic Saints comeback. Players were running around frantically after the game, nobody knew what was happening with the extra point and everyone was so shellshocked that media members were left with few quotes that didn’t involve “I can’t believe it.”
There is a trend in the NFL. An emotionally exhausting win can often lead to trouble one week later. In the playoffs that case could be even bigger. The Vikings don’t just have another game this week, it’s an NFC Championship matchup, on the road, in Philadelphia. The hardest thing for Mike Zimmer to do will be to rally his troops and re-focus their attention on the task in hand.
Not only that, but there’s added pressure from the outside. Knowing that if the Vikings win, they will in fact be HOSTING the Super Bowl, fans are dreaming of the most incredible situation to come to fruition. This is a big week for the Vikings and if they can’t get settled or come out misfiring offensively, the Eagles defense won’t be taking any prisoners.
One week ago, the Eagles were home underdogs against the #6 seed Falcons. On Sunday, they enter a similar scenario. Despite their impressive win, the Birds are still 3 point underdogs at home against the Vikings. We’ve seen the underdog mentality. We’ve seen the dog masks, the players evident chip on their shoulder and the way they played as a result.
(On that note, stay tuned as we’re gonna have some very exciting news soon)
The Eagles are actually in the better place coming into this week, in my opinion.
- They don’t have to travel.
- A sold out Lincoln Financial Field is always an intimidating place to play and the Eagles astonishing home record ranked first in the NFL.
- The attitude remains the same. Philadelphia are underdogs again and are being disrespected from all angles. There’s no adjustment, no cooling off period, no emotional strain…just a ruthless mentality to win.
The Vikings may have amassed 95 yards on the ground against the Saints, but an average of 2.6 yards per carry on 19 attempts for Latavius Murray was anything but encouraging. The Vikings now face the most penetrable run defense in the league and the entire ethos for the Eagles will be to force the north-south style into a zonal attack. The league’s top-ranked unit will face up against a Vikings offense that leans on its backfield to take pressure off of Keenum. The job for Philadelphia? The same as it has been all season. Take away the run game. The odds in this matchup certainly favor the Eagles.
Case Keenum has actually been one of the most efficient quarterbacks when pressured this season, but the Saints seemed to find a weakness in Keenum’s game, or at least in the playoffs. The Vikings quarterback made a sloppy throw under pressure which set up a Marcus Williams interception at a key moment in the game. What’s really astounding is the amount of pressure that comes from the Eagles front four.
Four players on the Eagles roster have 5+ sacks this season: Derek Barnett, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Chris Long. All four of these players sit on the defensive line. If that’s still not raised your eyebrows, maybe this will.
DE Brandon Graham 60
DE Chris Long 52
DT Fletcher Cox 50
DE Vinny Curry 47
DE Derek Barnett 37
DT Timmy Jernigan 23
DT Beau Allen 21
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 18, 2018
The Eagles were able to pressure Matt Ryan on 38% of snaps one week ago and with Case Keenum making some uncharacteristically errant throws against the Saints, the Eagles may be able to throw the kitchen sink at the Vikings a little more than we’re used to seeing and really assert themselves as the best overall defense in the league.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports