The Minnesota Vikings are one game away from becoming the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl as host city. Standing in their way are the Philadelphia Eagles, a team hosting the NFC Championship and 9-1 on home turf this season (6:40 PM ET Sunday).
The match-up between the Eagles and the Vikings is an intriguing one for several reasons. Both teams are looking for their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history. Now in their 84th season, the Eagles are three-time NFL champions but have yet to win the coveted Super Bowl trophy. The Vikings are in their 57th season and are one-time champions, again prior to the AFL-NFL merger which allowed for the creation of the Super Bowl.
Additionally, the Eagles and Vikings are playing in the NFC Championship behind the efforts of two back-up quarterbacks, but not just any two quarterbacks. Both Nick Foles for Philadelphia and Case Keenum for Minnesota shared a team just a few years ago, when they both played for Jeff Fisher and the then St. Louis Rams.
Finally, this is a match-up between two of the league’s top four overall defenses, and the top-two if you are only counting the NFC. On average, the Vikings allow just under 276 yards per game, about 20 less than the 306.5 allowed by the Eagles. Minnesota is also ranked second in both passing defense and rushing defense, the latter of which is led by Philadelphia, as the team allows under 80 yards on the ground per game. Both teams also allow less than 19 points per game with the Vikings leading the NFL with their average of 15.8.
As the expression goes: Defense wins championships. However, with both teams top in that sphere, it’s going to come down to which does more with their offense on Sunday.
Before choosing this preview’s Minnesota Vikings vs Philadelphia Eagles predictions we will do some more detailed analysis on this NFL game. Then we will be in a position to choose our picks, with the plan of profiting from the sports betting sites’ quoted odds.
Battle of the Backups: Nick Foles vs Case Keenum
When the 2017-18 season began, the Vikings and Eagles probably figured if they were going to be playing for a chance to play for a Super Bowl, it would have been behind respective starters, Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz. However, as things so often do, injuries struck both teams hard and both lost their quarterbacks prior to the postseason.
For Keenum in Minnesota, he had a full year to transition from backup to starter as Bradford was injured in the second game of the season. In his new role, the 29-year-old journeyman, now with his third team in five seasons, played well, helping the Vikings to their 13-3 record. That was tied with Philadelphia for best in the NFL.
In 15 games played, Keenum completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Not bad with his legs either, Keenum rushed the ball 40 times for 160 yards on the season as well. In his first career playoff game, which took place last week in the barnburner against the New Orleans Saints, Keenum had a good enough game, throwing for 318 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
While Keenum had almost a full year to adjust to the starting role, Foles was thrown into the fire at a less than opportune time. The Eagles were riding high as the best team in the NFL and their Super Bowl chances never seemed higher. Then, in a mid-December game against the Los Angeles Rams, starter and MVP favorite Carson Wentz was lost to a season-ending injury. Foles went on to win the game against his former team but losing Wentz was definitely a major blow.
Foles was competing not just with his opponents each week but with the expectations of a city that had all of their Super Bowl hopes riding on him. The pressure may have been enough to crack some, but Foles, who was the starter in Philadelphia for three years at the beginning of his career (2012-14), maintained poise under pressure. On the year, he threw five touchdowns, two interceptions, and 537 yards with a 56.4 completion percentage.
In his only playoff game this year, against the Atlanta Falcons, it was Philadelphia’s defense that won with a goal line stance late in the game, but Foles who played almost mistake-free football. The 28-year-old out of Arizona completed 76.7 percent of his passes, with a clean sheet. It is a small sample size obviously, but Foles’ completion percentage is the best of the playoffs thus far.
Foles and Keenum have similar strengths and weaknesses but when it comes to the offenses they lead, Philadelphia probably has a slight edge. The Eagles rank seventh in the NFL (second in the NFC) in total offense and third in rushing offense. Philadelphia is also third in total points and points per game, of which they average 28.6. In the same categories, Minnesota ranks 11th in total offense, seventh in rushing and 10th in PPG.
This Betting Preview’s Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Picks & Predictions
Following an emotional victory last week over the Saints, the Vikings will come into this one on the high of being just one win away from playing a home Super Bowl. That’s an incredible goal to aim for, but it won’t be easy given Philadelphia’s own goals for this season. In order to get home for the championship, Minnesota will first have to live up to their status as road favorites, at what has been one of the toughest places for opposing teams this year, Lincoln Financial Field.
Being home underdogs has become part of the postseason narrative for Philadelphia and no one must be feeling that more than Foles. After all, given how the season went, a Wentz-led team would more than likely have been favorite against the Falcons and now Vikings, whereas the Eagles currently are not. The spread favors Minnesota by circa three points, but bettors might find themselves torn down the middle. Both teams are 14-3 SU and 11-6 ATS. In addition both are 8-9 OU when it comes to the totals.
- This is a game between two teams who do things similarly and it will come down to which does them the best. Take the Eagles to cover at home, regardless of the SU outcome. So the pick is Philadelphia +3.5pts @ -120 with Bovada. All other major sportsbooks have the spread at +3pts.
- As for the total points, this game is all about defense so the prediction is to take the under 39pts @ best odds of -107 with Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.