The Eagles and Vikings will be featured in the next episode of Sunday Night Football, and a win would allow the Eagles to clinch a top three seed in the NFC playoffs. The game will be played in Philadelphia, but the Eagles had better not overlook their 5-9 opponents. The Vikings were considered to be legitimate super bowl contenders at the start of the season, and will not roll over for the Eagles. They have the sixth ranked defense and top ten units against both the run and the pass in what people have called a down year for the perennially stout Vikings. Jared Allen got off to a slow start, but has 8.5 sacks in his last six contests. The defense also boasts two of the most powerful defensive tackles in the league in Kevin and Pat Williams as well as a very talented linebacker corps and the pro-bowl corner Antoine Winfield. Their offense has been kept in check this season, but they have players who can blow up and record great games such as Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, and Sidney Rice. The Eagles cannot believe they have the game won before the Vikings get off the bus.
There is no doubt that the Eagles will be heavily favored, and they have a far superior team. Their primary objective should be to score points early and often. Make the rookie Joe Webb throw the ball often and play from behind. If the Eagles can score touchdowns on their first two possessions, I will chalk up an eleventh win for this franchise and another divisional championship. However, the Eagles will have to crack this underrated defense. They must attack the Viking safeties, easily the weakest links on their defense. It just so happens that the Eagles put more pressure on safeties than just about anybody with their speedsters on the outside. Minnesota couldn’t handle Johnny Knox or Devin Aromashodu last night, so there is no way Vick shouldn’t be able to get the ball to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin down the field. If he can’t, the Eagle offense may be in trouble because their offensive line is no match for the Williams Wall up front and should struggle to create running lanes. Additionally, the Vikings corners are very good tacklers, which will make short passes tough to turn into long gains that DeSean Jackson is so good at creating.
Defensively, the Eagles must play their game, and play it well. The Eagles are an aggressive, blitzing team, and this gameplan must be used against the inexperienced Joe Webb. The Viking offensive line will again be without all-pro guard Steve Hutchinson and has struggled mightily this season. If the Eagles cannot consistently pressure Joe Webb into poor throws, the Eagles could be in trouble. Another key will be shutting down Percy Harvin, the Vikings’ multidimensional wide receiver who will line up in the slot, in the backfield, or split out wide. We cannot allow him to create mismatches, but he may be better than any of our defensive backs outside of Asante Samuel. Really, the Eagles cannot allow the athletic Joe Webb to gain any sort of confidence. The first few possessions of the game will be most important. If the Eagles can go up 14-0 in the first quarter while forcing a turnover or getting some hits on Webb, there is no way Philly drops this game. However, if Webb makes a few big plays and the Vikings execute their cover 2 defense better than they have, the game may wind up closer than most imagined.
I don’t think Minnesota has the overall athleticism of the Giants on defense, and they seem unlikely to get away from their bread and butter cover 2 style of defense. Vick won’t have his way with the Vikings, but the Eagles will make more than enough plays. Defensively, the Eagles will shut down the Viking running game, force Joe Webb into some bad mistakes, but also give up two or three big plays that they shouldn’t have given their inexperience on the back end. I like the Vikings to hang with the Eagles for longer than expected, but wind up losing.
Eagles 31, Vikings 17