It’s here. The NFC Championship will be decided in a matter of hours as the Eagles prepare to host the Minnesota Vikings. Predictions have been made, analysis has been provided and the calm before the storm is here. While the City holds its breath in anticipation, it’s time for some closing thoughts before the game.
No place like home:
The Vikings aren’t just walking into enemy territory, but a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field will be a minefield for Minnesota. Since the start of 2016, the Eagles have a 14-3 record at home, but the dominance doesn’t end there.
Not only that, but the Eagles have the second highest point differential in the NFL when playing at home in this period with +197, trailing only the Patriots.
They have allowed a stunningly low 75.1 average passer rating in this span, which given how Keenum struggled against the Saints one week ago, has to be a sign of promise. The pressure generated up front will make like incredibly difficult for Keenum and we can expect plenty of NASCAR packages and explosive looks to be sent in the quarterback’s direction.
It’s not just the pass-rush that’s dominant. The Eagles have 30 takeaways since 2016 when playing at home, ranking behind only Kansas City, while allowing an average of just 14.2 points. To put it simply, there is no place like home.
Nick Folean Dynamite:
He’s not Carson Wentz, but believe it or not, Nick Foles has posted a passer rating of at least 100 in both of his playoff appearances. Foles may not bring the explosiveness or dual-threat potential that is possessed by Carson Wentz, but after a second half against Atlanta where Foles showed he could at least move the ball precisely to get the Birds in scoring position, confidence is high.
Red zone scoring:
Production in the red zone spiked through the roof this season, with the team scoring touchdowns on 67% of their drives which end up inside the opposing 20. Against the Falcons however, that number sunk to 33%…as it has during their last three games.
“Yeah, it comes from me.” Pederson told reporters earlier this week of a new focus to produce inside the opposing 20 in the postseason. “It’s great that it comes from the players. They recognize it. It’s something that I started back in the spring with OTAs, working the red zone a little bit more, because a year ago we weren’t very good there. We’ve seemed to kind of correct it a little bit. Personnel helps, obviously. But it’s great that the players are talking about it and focused on that area.”
Conversely, Minnesota are allowing touchdowns on 43% of opposing drives that end up inside the red zone. Their defense has been a machine this year and considering how rarely the Eagles were able to drive the length of the field one week ago, they have to find a way to convert this week as those opportunities may be few and far between.
I spoke about this before, but the Eagles and Vikings come into this game with two very different mindsets. For Philly, it’s all about being the underdog. The #1 seed are underdogs at home yet again and after making such a point of proving every doubter and those who disrespected the team wrong, they’re in the same situation again. Do you really need to give Philadelphia ANOTHER chip on the shoulder?
“I think we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.” Doug Pederson explained in a press conference this week.” The guys are going to prepare themselves the way they have all season long. It’s obviously a great honor, a great opportunity faced in front of us and we just attack each day the same.”
As for the Vikings, coming off of the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’ with emotions being so incredibly hard to contain, the team now have the added pressure of knowing that a win would make history. A chance to play in a Super Bowl on home soil. It’s unheard of in the NFL and everybody knows it. The Vikings were 17-0 up as they went into halftime. If it wasn’t for a freak touchdown with a second remaining, they would have lost. The hardest thing for the VIkes to do would be to come into this game with a balanced mindset. Advantage Eagles? Maybe.
Just for good measure, here are our two film room pieces from the NFC Championship win.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports