Most of us got what we wanted. The Minnesota Vikings are coming to Lincoln Financial Field. SKOL!! I certainly didn’t want to see Drew Brees at the Linc again in a playoff game. But is this a case of “be careful what you wish for”? Let’s take a bird’s eye view of just a few things we should keep our eyes on in this NFC Championship Game:
BIG V – Everson Griffin has been injury plagued all year. And he still was a second-team All-Pro. He still had 13 sacks and he was a nightmare for the Saints OL in the divisional round. The time for pride is long gone. Big V is going to need some help. Ajayi, Blount, and Clement better know where Griffin is when/if Foles decides to drop back and deliver a long one. Big V is an excellent run blocker but we have all seen his flaws in pass protection. The RPO, quick-strike scheme the offensive staff deployed against the Falcons didn’t just help Foles; Big V benefited just as much.
WISNIEWSKI/BROOKS – Foles does not want to roll. Foles does not want to run. Foles can’t really roll. Foles can’t really run. Any pressure up the middle is going to be a problem for the bird gang. No one knew how great of a season Wisniewski was having until he was gone for a few weeks. Jay Ajayi’s long run on his second screen pass was a direct result of Wisniewski blocking two guys while pulling. One wasn’t enough for him. Guards are taken for granted in this league and we’ve got two of the best. Brooks is as rock steady and consistent as Lane Johnson is next to him. If Foles has a pocket to step up into he may be able to replicate his record-setting 77% completion rate performance. Vikings DT’s Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson can be handfuls so this is a matchup to watch.
ANYONE ON RHODES– Xavier Rhodes is good. He’s real good. An All-Pro selection that was well earned as a shutdown corner. But in the divisional round, Drew Brees brought the Saints back by going right after him. Is there a chance that Rhodes can be lulled to sleep? Michael Thomas had 7 receptions for 85 yards and 2 TDs with Rhodes shadowing him most of the game. With 2 INT’s and 10 pass breakups, Rhodes does more to break passes up then he does to gamble. Listen, I’m not downplaying Rhode’s talent or impact on the Vikings defense. He’s what allows Zimmer to do whatever he wants with his safeties because he doesn’t always need to have help over the top. But, to no surprise to anyone, this Eagles team isn’t going over the top much. Foles can make his reads without needing to worry about where Rhodes is. Not with his style and the play calling we saw last week.
THE LINC – Home field advantage. We’ve got it. Minnesota does not. In the last six home games, the Eagles have given up 10, 6, 3, 10, 6, and 10 points. That’s not a fluke. That is a defense that feeds off of home field and the crowd. That’s a defense that feeds off of US. The Falcons ran 59 offensive plays last Saturday with 25 of them going for no gain or a loss. Dougie P and the boys have a 14-3 record at home since he took over, including an 8-1 record this year. The only loss this season coming in a meaningless Week 17 Dallas Cowboys game. Every player interviewed
NELSON AGHOLAR – I don’t know how much I can emphasize that Agholar is the key to beating the Vikings. STONE COLD GAME CHANGER. It appears his strip club drama at the beginning of the 2016 season was on his mind all last year. I know I wasn’t the only one screaming for his job coming into training camp. Agholar is a completely different player this year and quite possibly the only thing Chip Kelly did right. Make no mistake the Minnesota Vikings defense has been phenomenal against the pass allowing only 192 yds/game. They are ranked #1 against the RB and #2 overall against the TE in the passing game. However, against teams #3 WR’s the Vikings rank only 15th in the NFL allowing over 50 yards a game. Agholar has 65 receptions for 792 yards and 8 TDS. With no much attention on Ertz and Jeffrey, it’s time for Agholar to break out. In the divisional round we also saw Pederson get him the ball in the backfield resulting in 20 yards on 2 carries. Agholar can be an explosive playmaker and it appears Dougie P is realizing it. Besides his receiving ability, he was a second-team All-American punt returner. With the staleness in the return game all season with no Darren Sproles it’s time for a spark.
AND LET’S CLEAR SOMETHING UP! SKOL means “cheers”. It doesn’t mean “dominate”, or “mangle”, or really anything worthy of stadium chants. You can put it in all CAPS as much as you want it’s not badass. Vikings fans would lead you to believe they’re performing some kind of Nordic war chant. All I can see now is a bunch of old English ladies clinking tea glasses over scones. Now that your terrible slogan has been exposed it’s time for the bird gang to do the same to your defense. There is no destiny. You’re not the Mighty Ducks. Mike Zimmer is not “Gordon Bombay” the “Minnesota Miracle Man”. You’ll be home for the Super Bowl just not how you envisioned it. SKOL.
Written by: Mike “the Urban Thriller” Miller