NFL: 2018 NFC Championship Preview & Prediction

 The top-seeded Minnesota Vikings will take on the third-seeded Philadelphia Eagles at home in the NFC Championship. The game will start at 5:40 pm (central time) on Sunday, Jan. 21 and will air on FOX.

With a combined six Super Bowl appearances between them, the top-seeded Eagles and third-seeded Vikings will face off with the next appearance on the line. The Vikings, currently 4-5 in NFC Championship games and 0-4 in Super Bowls, will have to rely heavily on their league-best defense against the Eagles, led by backup QB Nick Foles. Foles and the Eagles will need to establish their offense early against the Vikings and will look to improve on their 5-5 record in NFC Championship games.

The Vikings are one win away from hosting a Super Bowl, something that has never happened in the history of the NFL. Case Keenum and Nick Foles are not who anyone expected to be playing in the NFC Championship game. Both players are filling in for a starter-Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz, who both suffered knee injuries earlier in the season. With minimal playoff experience, both quarterbacks have big shoes to fill, but will lean on their defenses to stay in the game this weekend.

Both teams have relied on their defenses all season. With a takeaway ratio of +11 and +5 respectively, the Eagles and Vikings will continue to put pressure on the inexperienced players they’re facing.

Case for the Vikings:

With the best defense in the league, the Minnesota Vikings are just one win from playing in the Super Bowl. That Super Bowl, the 52nd, will be played U.S Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN–home of the Vikings. To play at home for the Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history, the Vikings will have to get past the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

Riding the best finish in this season playoffs, the Vikings will need to get it done throughout the game against an Eagles team that ranked second, behind Minnesota, in NFC defense. The Vikings average 122 rushing yards per game, putting them seventh in the NFL. The Eagles defense allows an average of less than 80 rushing yards per game, the best in the league. For the Vikings to stay in this game, they will have to give Latavius Murray the ball and earn the yards on the ground.

In the air, Keenum proved himself over and over this season. Averaging 234 yards/game this season, Keenum and the Viking ranked 11th in the league. The Eagles defense gave up just less than that, averaging 227 pass yards allowed/game, ranking them 17th best. Not anything to brag about for the backfield of the Philly defense.

With three big targets in the passing game, Keenum will need to spread the ball out between Theilen, Diggs and Rudolph to disrupt the defensive play of the Eagles.

Case for the Eagles:

After rookie quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Eagles could’ve stopped fighting for their season. They had already clinched the NFC East and only had two regular season games left before their first-round bye and the playoffs. Enter Nick Foles.

With a third round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Eagles drafted Foles. Playing only seven games his rookie season, Foles had a TD-INT ratio of 6-5. The next season, Foles stepped up and played 13 games. His stats were astounding, including a 7-TD, 0-INT game, leading him to a TD-INT ratio of 27-2 for the 2013 season. After an average year with Eagles in 2014, Foles began bouncing around between a few NFL teams (Chiefs and Rams) before ending up back in Philadelphia.

Playing in his 51st career NFL game on Sunday, Foles will have to play above average to lead the Eagles to a spot in Super Bowl 52.

The Eagles rank third-best in the league in rushing yards/game, averaging 132. The Vikings defense ranks second in the NFL, behind the Eagles, in rushing defense, allowing just an average of 83 rushing yards/game. The Eagles will need to get LeGarrette Blount running downfield early to keep up with the run defense of the Vikings. If their run game can become a threat, the Eagles can use play-action to their advantage and take some shots downfield. Foles, though he’s been conservative to this point, will need to make plays while remaining smart. To prove himself as a legitimate starter, he’ll need to have a good game and lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance since 2004 when they lost to the Patriots.

My Prediction:

Both quarterbacks will throw at least an INT. Case Keenum will throw for 200 yards and 2 TDs, Nick Foles will throw for 200 and 1 TD. Murray will run for 100 yards and a TD. Blount and Ajayi will combine for 60 yards and 2 TDs. Theilen, Diggs and Rudolph will combine for 15 receptions and 150 yards. I expect at least one defensive TD in the game.

Vikings: 21
Eagles: 17

For a preview and prediction for the AFC Championship game, CLICK HERE.

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