The Eagles’ path to winning the Super Bowl is through low-scoring, ugly games. It’s obvious that a Nick Foles-led offense won’t drop 40 on anybody like it was able to do with Carson Wentz under center. The Eagles won’t be able to hang in a shootout– it’s simply no longer in their DNA. Their offense is middle-of-the-pack. Their defense is borderline elite. Thus, their best chance of success comes against teams who play a similar style, even if they do it better than the Eagles.
If the Eagles are to “upset” their opponent, it will be a lot easier in a game where one touchdown can make all the difference than it would be if they needed to match the firepower of the Saints. In other words, Nick Foles and the offense isn’t scoring a lot of points anyway, so they might as well do it against a team who won’t give them up, thus somewhat negating their opponent’s advantage and forcing their offense to step up. One fluke play or big pass can be the difference between a win and a loss. This is how the Eagles beat the Falcons, a team that may be known for their offense but lately had been relying heavily on their defense. The Vikings are just a better version of them, with arguably lesser weapons. A 10-9 game feels just about right.
Case Keenum – who has played well above his fighting weight all season – and the Vikings will face just as much of a challenge against the Eagles’ D as the Eagles will going against the Vikings’ vaunted defense.
Speaking of which… the Eagles aren’t far behind the Vikings in most defensive categories, and their run defense is arguably better. Wherein lies the difference between the two units? The Eagles’ passing defense isn’t as good, or at least not as consistent. Seeing as though they’ve been forcing teams to throw – by virtue of often having the lead, and being among the best in yards per attempt in rushing – the Vikings, who are 22nd in the league in yards per attempt on the ground, will be compelled to do the same and rely on the shoulder of Case Keenum, who throws a football like he’s doing the shot put. I’ll take that over Drew Brees any day, even in the cold… in fact especially in the cold. We don’t know what the weather will be on Sunday, but here are the conditions, according to NFL Weather, the Vikings have played in this year:
In the two games they played in under 40-degree weather, they lost to the Panthers 31-24 when it was a cool 39 degrees and beat the Packers 16-0 on the Aaron Rodgers-less frozen tundra. Keenum went 27-44 with 2 TDs and 2 INTs in the former, and turned in a game-managery 56% completion percentage and 153 yards in the latter. In fact, since November 12, those were his only two regular season games with a QB rating of under 100:
That’s not to say Keenum can’t play in the cold, but I’ll certainly take my chance against him over Brees.
All of this is not to disrespect the Vikings. They are a phenomenal team with an elite defense and somewhat dangerous offense– Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielan are real threats. Like the Eagles, they, too, have overacheived this year, with a “backup” quarterback. There are no easy matchups at this time of the year (take note, the Patriots), but given the option, I’d prefer a defensive-minded team with a relatively inexperienced quarterback over high-octane offenses like the Saints… or Patriots.
Now, let’s look at the line.
After Carson Wentz went down with an injury we showed you projected lines for Eagles home playoff games. They looked like this:
vs. Vikings (pk)
vs. Falcons (+1)
vs. Rams (+2)
vs. Saints (+2)
vs. Panthers (+2.5)
vs. Seahawks (+3)
The Eagles would’ve been a favorite to every team in the conference, except the Vikings.
But after three weeks of Nick Foles, a dismal offense, and some concerning defensive traits, they opened as a three-point underdog to the Falcons– a swing of 4 points, mostly due to Wentz being moved to a higher tier quarterback in terms of how Vegas views their value to the score. But the Eagles open at only +3.5 against the Vikings (and in some spots 3), which represents a swing back in their direction.
And then there’s Nate Silver:
— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) January 15, 2018
These are simply ELO ratings, which are based on 100,000 simulations after every game using head-to-head results. It doesn’t mean much, sure, but it uses like real actual math and concludes the Eagles have a very good chance.
The point of all this is to show that while there are no guarantees in the playoffs, the Eagles have gotten two favorable matchups, at home, for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. And if they get there, they could get another one when the Jaguars beat the Patriots. In that case, these home dogs would end up winning Best In Show.