After the Minnesota Vikings’ miraculous win last night, the Vikings must come to South Philly to battle the birds for the NFC crown. Many Eagles fans wanted to face the Vikings instead of the New Orleans Saints, but regardless let’s see how the Vikes match up with the Eagles, position by position:
QB – Nick Foles vs. Case Keenum
The way these teams have shuffled quarterbacks is so strange, but regardless it has gotten them to where they are now.
No one expected a NFC Championship game between Nick Foles and Case Keenum, two former Jeff Fischer prodigies. However if you had to take one of these QBs it would be Keenum. Keenum has been great this season, throwing 22 touchdowns to 7 interceptions and posting a QBR of 71.3 in the regular season. He is prone to throwing really questionable passes (like this) and pressure can affect him, but he has been good enough for the Vikings to win.
RB – Ajayi/Blount/Clement vs. Murray/McKinnon
The Vikings might have had the edge in this category earlier with rookie Dalvin Cook, but after his injury not so much. Murray and McKinnon have done a better job than expected, leading the Vikings to #7 in team rushing, but neither are backs that keep you awake at night. The Eagles have to watch out for outside runs from speedy McKinnon however after Tevin Coleman hurt them with runs like this:
The Eagles have a trio of backs that are built for January football. The Eagles rotation bruised teams in the regular season for the number three rushing offense in football. Whether it is Ajayi, Blount, or Clement, the Vikings need to stop the run to have success at the Linc. (JUST HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL FELLAS)
WR – Jeffrey/Smith/Agholor/Hollins vs. Diggs/Thielen/Treadwell/Wright
The Viking’s strong receiving core has been one of the reasons why Case Keenum has performed so well. This unit has grown to be one of the better in football, constantly getting separation on key plays. The main attractions are Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Diggs is more of a true number one receiver, who can also burn you over the top, but Thielen also has wheels of his own. Thielen alone finished 8th in receptions and 5th in receiving yards.
The Eagles unit is much improved from last year’s dreadful unit, but still has its issues. Jeffery has been a solid acquisition, proving to be a clutch possession receiver, and Nelson Agholor has been a completely different player this year with his role in the slot. Torrey Smith has been serviceable, but expect the Eagles to look for a better number two option in the off season.
TE – Ertz/Celek/Burton vs. Rudolph/Morgan
The Eagles easily outmatch the Vikings at tight end however. The Eagles tight ends lead the league in touchdown passes with 14, and the Eagles will use their tight ends in multiple formations. The Eagles will use Brent Celek as a blocker, and Trey Burton has the ability to be a threat down the field.
For the Vikings Kyle Rudolph is a solid player, he has 8 touchdowns just like Zach Ertz, but the Eagles personnel is stronger and more versatile.
OL – Vaitai/Wisniewski/Kelce/Brooks/Johnson vs. Reiff/Remmers/Elflein/Berger/Hill
The Vikings’ offensive line has surprised many this year, but not me. The Vikings were coming into the season with a new starter on every position on the line and they have been solid, but not great. Solid enough to lead the number ten offense in the league. However an injury to left guard Nick Easton has shuffled things around. Right tackle Mike Remmers was forced to left guard, and Rashod Hill became the starter in his place. Hill is the guy to watch versus a stacked Eagles defensive line.
The Eagles offensive line is one hell of a unit. The Eagles’ line this year alone has two members of the All-Pro first team, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, and a Pro Bowler, Brandon Brooks. Their weaker side however is the left. Stefan Wisniewski has played well at left guard since taking over the position. Look at him block three Falcons on this play:
However the left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been inconsistent. He has struggled replacing former All-Pro Jason Peters, and the Vikings will be game planing to take advantage of him.
Edge : Eagles
DE – Graham/Curry/Barnett/Long vs. Griffen/Hunter/Robison
Both of these defensive lines are killer, but the main difference comes in depth. The Eagles shuffle their ends in and out between plays.
The two best pass rushers are Brandon Graham and Everson Griffen. Both are premier pass rushers who will can give tackles nightmares.
The other two starters Vinny Curry and Danielle Hunter each can be monsters as well. Curry isn’t a guy who is going to stuff the stat sheets, but he is one of the best run stopping defensive ends in the league. On the other hand, Hunter is a speedy bull rusher who can get to the quarterback very quickly.
However looking at the depth for the Eagles, Chris Long and Derek Barnett, gives them a clear advantage. Long seems to always make plays, and Barnett has a very high motor, ferociously pursuing the quarterback rushing on every play.
DT – Cox/Jernigan/Allen vs. Joseph/Johnson/Stephen
This is all about Fletcher Cox. The man is a game wrecker. Looking at him against the Falcons last week there are so many plays where he blew up whatever the Falcons were trying to do. Like on this play:
However for Vikings their premier interior lineman is Linval Joseph. Joseph is 328 pounds of force at the nose tackle position, and can just be an immovable object at times. A great match up to watch her is between Joseph and the undersized Jason Kelce. Expect the Eagles to use Brandon Brooks on certain run plays to take away Joseph.
Again however the Eagles have the depth advantage. For the Birds, Jernigan and Allen will rotate all game to keep fresh. Also the Vikings will be without Shamar Stephen who was injured during the Saints game.
LB – Kendricks/Bradham/Ellerbe vs. Barr/Kendricks/Gedeon
The Eagles and Vikings are very similar in the fact that they play a lot of different looks on defense. Similarly they will both run packages where they go five or six defensive backs, so the linebackers who are out there need to really be versatile.
I’d say the two main linebackers for both teams are pretty evenly matched.
Nigel Bradham and Eric Kendricks are the signal callers, who have played really well this year, especially in coverage.
Eric’s brother Mychal has had a varied role in Philly for a few years now. After not playing much he requested a trade, but has since grown to be an important part of the Eagles defense under Jim Schwartz. He isn’t great in coverage, but has good speed and can get after the quarterback if asked.
His counterpart on the Vikings, Anthony Barr is a special player. He is kind of a freak of nature at 6’5″, 255 pounds. He isn’t a speed demon, but he matches up with tight ends really well in coverage and has the ability to rush the passer.
Overall I think both these groups are really similar, but I got to give to the Vikings based on their ability to match up with the Eagles’ pass catchers more
CB – Mills/Darby/Robinson/Douglas vs. Rhodes/Waynes/Newman/Alexander
The defensive back groups for these teams are strong and have depth.
The Vikings have the best player in All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is a great corner with really good size that will shadow Eagles’ Alshon Jeffery most of the game. The Vikings are good besides that though, Trae Waynes has been excellent in man coverage and Terence Newman seems to be immortal, but he is slowing down. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander also plays the slot for the Vikings at times, but he is questionable to play with a rib injury.
For the Eagles they are a young group that has grown over the year. Jalen Mills is one of the most targeted defensive backs in the league, but has proven himself when it matters. Ronald Darby has been spotty since his return, but has also shown his ballhawk skills, intercepting three balls since his return. Patrick Robinson has been one of the biggest surprises of the year, given the fact he was almost cut in camp. But he consistently has played at an elite level all year.
This is the toughest one to decide of the bunch. Both groups have major upside. One things to watch for is the speed of these groups. A few of these corners, like Newman, aren’t that quick and could be taken advantage of by players like Diggs or Agholor.
S – Jenkins/McLeod/Graham vs. Sendejo/Smith/Harris
These team each have pretty good safety tandems. Malcom Jenkins and Harrison Smith are the premier players of the group, but Smith is the best of them all. He has had an amazing year.
Jenkins is a Pro Bowl safety on his own however and plays a versatile role in the Eagles defense. He will line up in many spots on the field, from linebacker to corner, and has a great nose for the ball.
The Eagles other safety Rodney McLeod is a middle of the road safety, who has played decent since the Eagles signed him in free agency last year.
For the Vikings, Sendejo is an underrated player. He helps the back end of the defense, and a lot of the time sets up Smith to make plays. He did however have a concussion last week against the Saints, and will be questionable heading into the game. If he doesn’t play it forces Anthony Harris to start which could shake things up.
Edge: Vikings, if Sendejo plays
K – Jake Elliott vs. Kai Forbath
Both these kickers have similar field goal percentages, 84.2% for Forbath and 83.9% for Elliot, but seem to struggle a bit on extra points. Forbath has missed five on the year, good for 87.2%, while Elliott has missed three on the year, for 92.9%.
Both kickers seem decent from distance. Forbath is six of nine from over 50 yards, while Elliot is five of six from downtown with a 61-yarder in that group.
In a game that is going to be close I would have to take Elliot, who has a higher extra point percentage and has proven to be clutch.
P – Donnie Jones vs. Ryan Quigley
Donnie Jones outclasses Quigley in distance, but Quigley is better at placement. Quigley put 29 balls inside the opponents 20 while Jones only put 21 inside the 20, while is near the bottom in the league. Punters could be big in this game with these defenses being so elite, but neither team has a large advantage here.
I’m am so pumped for this game Sunday night. What do you guys think about these position battles? Anything you would change?