For the second straight week, the No. 1 seeded 14-3 Eagles (including last week’s win against the Falcons) will be around three point underdogs in Las Vegas.
And once again, the team has an underdog mentality and motive to beat the incoming Vikings Sunday evening in the NFC Championship game.
The teams are strikingly similar when comparing roster strengths and weaknesses, which makes for a very interesting match up. With Carson Wentz’ brilliant season in the rearview, Nick Foles will lead the Eagles against his former teammate with the Rams Case Keenum. From quarterback plan on down, the teams are very equal in many measures. Here is a detailed breakdown of who has an edge at each position.
Quarterbacks: Advantage Vikings
This one could really go either way. Both Foles and Keenum have extremely similar stats, from win percentage to touchdown rate to quarterback rating. Foles has a 87.4 quarterback rating and has completed around 60 percent of his passes. He has thrown for more touchdowns in his career with 61 in 49 games. Keenum has a completion percentage near 62 percent and a QB rating of 86.0. He has thrown 46 touchdown passes in 41 games. The nod goes to Keenum, slightly, due to his almost MVP quality season at the helm of Minnesota this season but Foles is not inferior by any means.
Running backs: Advantage Eagles
The Birds have a better run game, but by a razor thin margin having outgained Minnesota by less than 200 yards this season. Philly has the third best running game in the NFL, though Minnesota has scored 15 touchdowns on the ground to just nine by the Eagles. Philly is more efficient, as LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and company have run for 4.5 yards per carry, second best in football. The Vikings gained 3.9 yards per rush, with Jerrod McKinnon and Latavius Murry handling most of the duties.
Wide Receivers/tight ends: No advantage
With Wentz, the Eagles would win this category — they threw for 38 touchdowns this season in contrast for 25 for the Vikings. But on paper the rest of the numbers are incredibly close. The Eagles outgained the Vikings through the air by just 38 yards this season. The accomplishents of the Eagles’ three biggest threats — Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz roughly equal those of Minnesota’s Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph.
Offensive line: Advantage Eagles
The Eagles’ offensive line boasts two Pro Bowlers (Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks on the right side) and an All-Pro (center Jason Kelce). The run blocking is among the best in the NFL and the offensive line is a clear area of strength for the Eagles. However, the Vikings have allowed fewer sacks and quarterback hits — though Wentz’ manuverabiluty and out of the pocket movement does explain a litte bit of that.
Defensive line: Advantage Eagles
Philadelphia and Minnesota had 38 and 37 sacks on the year respectively. However, the depth and talent on the Eagles defensive line, led by Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and reinforced by Vinnt Curry, Derek Barnett, Chris Long and Timmy Jernigan makes them one of the most potent units in the NFL.
Linebackers: Advantage Vikings
With Jordan Hicks out, the Eagles tandem of Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks has been solid. But Kendricks’ brother Eric had 113 combined tackles this season as well as six deflected passes and gives Minnesota a brief edge at linebacker.
Secondary: Advantage Vikings
The Vikings are very good against the pass, and very good on third down. With a secondary of household names, they are a unit good enough to really caused the Eagles wide receivers problems.
“They have some playmakers with petigree,” Eagles receiver Torrey Smith said. “They area bunch of first rounders running around. Seeing [safety Harrison Smith] on the back end and what he can do in the box or back deep, obviously [cornerback Xavier Rhodes] is playing extremely well and the young guy [cornerback Trae Waynes] on the othereside, we’ve watched him grow. They are a great secondary. As always we will have our hands full.”
Special teams: No advantage
The Vikings are a slightly better return team and the Eagles are a little better in their kicking game. A costly turnover on a botched punt return last week against the Falcons yielded the only touchdown allowed in the game. Philly will need to keep its special teams clean to prevail again.
Overall: No advantage
There couldn’t be two more evenly matched teams if the NFL tried. Both equads allow almost the same yards defensively per game and collect the same number of yards. Both have former back up quarterbacks leading an offense stocked with potent weapons. The Eagles front four is fierce as is the Vikings back four. Vegas may have this game as a three-point Minnesota edge, but in reality and in Philadelphia, things are absolutely positively dead even.