How the Vikings Will Win the NFC Championship
We are down to two teams to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII. The Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. The winner of this Sunday’s game will win the NFC Championship.
With both teams looking to end their Super Bowl droughts, here is why the Vikings will emerge victorious this Sunday and walk away with the NFC Championship.
Put Pressure on Foles
The Vikings boast the second-best pass defense in the entire league in terms of yards allowed (192.4). Let’s not forget, that Minnesota has allowed the third-lowest quarterback passer ratings this season (73.0).
A defensive front seven including Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, and Eric Kendricks has all the potential to get to quarterback Nick Foles.
Foles did look flawless last week, albeit after a shaky first quarter, where he completed 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards. The thing was that Foles was facing a weakened and exhausted Falcons defense, giving him plenty of time in the pocket. With the powerful front seven pressuring, Foles could find himself running around quite a bit. That, in turn, could lead to some mistakes at the hand of the quarterback, which will work in favor of the Vikings secondary. If he can not hit his receivers, it will make Minnesota’s job that much easier.
Utilize the Running Game
This might be the key matchup of the game. The Vikings seventh-best rushing offense (122.3 yards per game) against the Eagles league-best run defense (79.2). Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Tim Jernigan, and Brandon Graham are key contributors to their success against the run.
However, the Minnesota running backs under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur have seen success this year, despite the injury to rookie Dalvin Cook. With Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, the Vikings have utilized them to near perfection. In fact, Minnesota is tied for the third-least amount of fumbles by running backs this season (four).
While the Eagles’ rush defense has proven to be stifling, they face a true test against the Vikings, and might have their hands full.
Mistake-Free Game From Keenum
Case Keenum had an MVP-caliber season as the Vikings starting quarterback this season. In the Divisional Round this past week, we saw some flaws in Keenum’s game. Most of it could be attributed to jitters due to it being his first career playoff game.
One in particular came in the third quarter. Facing pressure from Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Keenum threw up a floater. In it’s sky-high elevation, Saints safety Marcus Williams hauled in the interception. Despite that, Keenum still had a decent game, throwing for 318 yards and a touchdown, with a 62.5 completion percentage and 85.2 passer rating.
Luckily for Keenum, he faces a league-average Eagles pass defense (227.3 yards per game). With the likes of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph to throw to, the University of Houston product has the tools to succeed. Just look at what he did on the last-second touchdown pass to Diggs. The connection is there, and it could spell trouble for the Eagles.
Stop the Eagles’ Two-Headed Rush Attack
The Eagles have quite a one-two punch in Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, which consists of the third-best rush offense in the league (132.3 yards per game). Minnesota, on the other hand, boasts the second-best rush defense in the NFL.
It will certainly be a battle of attrition. However, Philadelphia’s rushing attack has had one problem this season, and that’s fumbles. The Eagles lead the league in running back fumbles this regular season (11). That was exemplified in the Divisional Round, where Ajayi fumbled on the Eagles’ first drive.
With the defensive talent on Minnesota, they have the means to stop the run, which will later attribute to putting pressure to Nick Foles.
If the Vikings can do this on Sunday, they can leave Lincoln Financial Field as NFC Champions, and become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl on their home turf.