The Spread and Total
Minnesota Vikings (-3, 39 O/U) at Philadelphia Eagles, courtesy of Sportsbetting.ag. [To learn more about Sportsbetting.ag, read our sportsbook review.]
Minnesota Vikings: 14-3 (11-6 ATS); 1st NFC North
Philadelphia Eagles: 14-3 (11-6 ATS); 1st NFC East
DT Shamar Stephen (knee), out; S Andrew Sendejo (concussion), questionable; WR Adam Thielen (back), questionable; CB Mackensie Alexander (rib), questionable; C Pat Elflein (shoulder), probable.
LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), questionable; CB Sidney Jones (hamstring); RB Jay Ajayi (knee), probable.
- Oct. 23, 2016 (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia): Philadelphia 21, Minnesota 10
- Dec. 15, 2013 (Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis): Minnesota 48, Philadelphia 30
The Eagles are 3-0 straight-up against the Vikings in the playoffs, with the last win coming in 2009.
Significant ATS Trends
- Philadelphia has gone 2-4 ATS in its last six, but is 10-1 SU in its last 11 at home.
- Minnesota is 3-2 ATS as a road favorite and 5-3 ATS on the road overall
- The Eagles are 4-1 ATS in their last five January games.
- The Vikings are 3-2 ATS in their last five playoff games.
- The total has gone UNDER in seven of the last ten Eagles games.
- In their last six games, overall, and last six playoff games, the Vikings total has gone UNDER four times.
One arrived by miracle. The other had help from the league’s most-maligned offensive coordinator. But however shocking the results were at the time, in the end, the NFC’s two best teams of 2017 are the ones playing in the championship game.
While metrics like DVOA might rank the Saints and Rams higher than Philadelphia and Minnesota, from the start of the season to the finish, the Eagles and Vikings have avoided let downs, even when faced with major adversity. Minnesota lost potential Offensive Rookie of the Year Dalvin Cook and staring QB Sam Bradford early. The Eagles lost MVP candidate Carson Wentz late in the year, as well as stud left tackle Jason Peters. Despite these sizeable setbacks, both teams finished 13-3, including 10-2 in their own (stronger) conference. They got it done against the best, too, combining for a 7-1 SU record against other NFC playoff teams.
Both teams are similarly balanced: Minnesota ranks fifth in offensive DVOA and second in defensive DVOA; Philly is fifth on defense and eighth on offensive (although they ranked fourth before Wentz went down). The drop off from Wentz to backup Nick Foles is really the only reason the Eagles are ‘dogs in this game. While neither QB in this game was their team’s first choice, Case Keenum has spent the year growing his brand with the Vikings high-powered offense, while Philly has sputtered under Foles.
However, after completing just 47-percent of his passes in the final two games of the year, Foles provided some reasons for optimism in the Eagles’ 15-10 Divisional Round win over Atlanta. Calling for a lot more run-pass options, Doug Pederson helped simplify reads for his quarterback and put Foles in a position to look like the guy who led these very Eagles to the postseason in 2013. Completing 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards, Foles actually finished last week as the highest rated passer in the NFC.
A closer look at his day will show that Foles only attempted six throws beyond ten yards (completing three). So while he was efficient in getting the ball out quickly, he’ll need to stretch the field more against Minnesota. Otherwise, All-Pro safety Harrison Smith will never leave the box and will destroy the Eagles’ short passing game.
In many ways, that short passing game will have to serve as the Eagles’ run game, too. Minnesota boasts a run defense as dominant as Philadelphia, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry and holding all but one RB below the century mark. In fact, Foles should look to take off on a few of those RPOs, because the teams that had the most success on the ground against Minnesota (Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay) had QBs that were willing to run.
On the other side of the field, Keenum and the Vikings offense will face the same challenges as the Eagles. They’ll have almost zero success running the football against Philly’s league-leading run defense, and that formidable front four will collapse the pocket around Keenum quickly. Yet, unlike Foles, Keenum doesn’t fold under pressure. His 78.5 passer rating when pressured is top ten in the league. That might have something to do with who his hot-reads are.
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the league’s best receiver tandem this season, combining for 2,125 yards and 12 touchdowns. Against the Saints, it was clear what Keenum’s strategy was against man coverage: lob high jump balls to his receivers to go get (or draw a pass interference call). Even though he was throwing back across the field sometimes, the ball was never in danger of getting picked because defenders didn’t have time to get their head around. The Eagles have some good cover corners in Ronald Darby and Patrick Robinson, but in straight man, that’s still a matchup that favors the Vikings.
Turnover potential is certainly worth noting in what should be a defensive struggle. Although Foles played a clean game last week, the Eagles still had two careless fumbles that led to all of the Falcons points. For his part, Keenum threw a brutal interception that shifted momentum to the Saints in a game the Vikings had dominated. Neither team should be expected to play flawless football, and both teams scored 76 points off takeaways this season, although the Eagles generated far more.
The possibility of hosting a Super Bowl is quite a carrot to dangle in front of a well-rounded, well-coached team like the Vikings. Normally, given this franchise’s painful history, I would fully expect them to choke away this opportunity. But last week’s game-winning play against the Saints makes you wonder: perhaps their luck really has turned?
Of course, it’s one thing to buy into their luck changing, it’s another thing to pass up a home underdog as solid as the Eagles. If you don’t think Vegas’ disrespect bothered Philly, watch how many creepy dog masks are out at the Linc this weekend. They’re going to be pissed off and up to the challenge.
Since 2000, home dogs in the championship round are 4-2 ATS, including three outright wins. One of those road favorites was a Vikings team that lost 41-0. I’m not saying that will happen here, but nothing about this franchise would surprise me anymore.
Since I like Philly, and they seemingly only have one blueprint to win, I also like the UNDER.
Pick: Eagles (+3) and UNDER (39).