Let’s flashback to December 2010. The Eagles were on a roll. They were in the midst of a winning streak, and were coming off of one of the most memorable wins in franchise history. The team was in first place, and seemingly cruising towards a division title.
Their next opponent was the Minnesota Vikings, and they weren’t expected to put up much of a fight. Not only were the Vikings a losing team, but the week before, their star player suffered an injury and was unlikely to play.
As it turned out, the Vikings had some fight left in them. After the game was pushed back by two days because of heavy snowfall in the Philadelphia area (Sound familiar?), the Vikings – despite the absence of star quarterback Brett Favre - didn’t just beat the Eagles, they beat them decisively.
The loss didn’t prevent the Eagles from winning the NFC East, but it did essentially begin the downfall of the Michael Vick era in Philadelphia. Up until that point, the Eagles’ offense looked pretty much unstoppable with Vick at the helm. The Vikings unveiled a defensive scheme that not only allowed them to win the game, but it also provided a helpful blueprint for other teams to follow
Three years later, the Eagles will once again face the Vikings in a December game one week after a memorable victory. And once again, the Vikings have a star player (Adrian Peterson) who is unlikely to play. Will the Eagles be able to defeat the inferior, wounded Vikings this time around? Or will we be left with an unfortunate feeling of déjà vu?
What’s the Deal with the Vikings?
Last week after the Eagles game ended, I was thinking, “We probably won’t see another game as crazy as that any time soon.” I was proven wrong almost immediately. I switched over to watch the end of the Ravens vs. Vikings game that featured about fifty lead changes in the final two minutes. (Note: This may be a slight exaggeration)
The Vikings lost the game, but that isn’t particularly surprising since the Vikings have lost many games this season. (Nine to be exact.) Adding injury to insult, superstar back Adrian Peterson left the game with a foot sprain.
It looked like a season ending injury at the time, but apparently Peterson has Wolverine-like healing abilities. At the end of the 2011 season, Peterson tore his ACL. For most athletes, it takes a full year to completely recover (if they ever do). Naturally, Peterson ran for over 2,000 yards the following season and set unrealistic expectations for all other athletes returning from similar injuries (Isn’t that right, RG3?)
Peterson said it is possible that he’ll play on Sunday. The Vikings are assuredly hoping that he does. Although they have a capable backup in Toby Gerhart, he is dealing with some injury problems of his own.
Featured Opposing Player: Matt Cassel
The Vikings currently have Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback. This may not seem like an optimal situation, but to their credit, the Vikings have been quite thorough in their attempts to find a quarterback this season. Christian Ponder was originally the starter, but he suffered a concussion and wasn’t especially good when healthy. The team also tried out Josh Freeman, but he made it evident why Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano was so anxious to get rid of him.
To his credit, Cassel’s recent play at the position can be described as surprisingly competent. His 265 yards in the Ravens game was a season high for Vikings quarterbacks. While that sounds unimpressive, keep in mind that the Vikings have wisely utilized a run-based offense. (Even Andy Reid would probably run the ball a few times if he had Peterson at running back. Well…maybe he would.)
Key Eagles Storyline
The Lions game highlighted just how good the Eagles offensive line has become. Sure, the snow might have had a little something to do with it, but the Eagles linemen took over that game against a pretty good defensive front. It’s especially nice to hear some of the quotes from the coaches about rookie tackle Lane Johnson. Like most rookies, he’s had some learning moments, but you keep hearing about how much progression he’s been making and how he doesn’t repeat mistakes.
Compare that to what coaches were saying about Danny Watkins in 2011. We heard things like, “He’s not quite where he needs to be,” and “We think he’s going to get it soon.”
In case you hadn’t heard, Nick Foles was on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. Foles has faced some tough tests this season, but will he be able to surpass the SI Cover Jinx? If he can still manage to have a good game this week, that will probably merit a bump on the Foles-o-Meter.
As for last week, it clearly wasn’t Foles’ best game. Considering he might never play in those types of conditions again, I think he deserves a pass.
Elsewhere in the NFL
In a truly shocking development, there has been some dysfunction within the Washington Redskins organization. After last week’s loss to the Chiefs, would-be franchise savior Robert Griffin III has been benched in favor of backup Kirk Cousins. It’s gotten so bad that the fans have basically given up.
Despite the team being in free fall, why do I still have some optimism that the Redskins will rally next week to beat the Cowboys? Is this simply wishful thinking?
Chappelle’s Show Skit that Relates to this Week’s Game
The Eagles are trying to avoid a let down this week. And nothing was more of a let down than “Season Three” of Chappelle’s Show. The “Dave Gets Revenge” skit was representative of the lost season’s quality:
You know what? After watching that again, it was kind of funny.
The Week in Andy
After 13 years together, many Eagles fans are feeling some Andy Reid withdrawal. I’ve decided to help them out by providing a weekly look at what Big Red is up to in Kansas City.
The scene: Reid is in his office talking to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
Reid: That was something last week, huh?
Sutton: It was certainly a quality win.
Reid: Sure, that was nice, but I was talking about the way they ended the game at halftime.
Sutton: Ended the game at halftime?
Reid: You know, we were winning big and it was snowing so they just called it at halftime.
Sutton: Uh…Coach, they didn’t call the game.
Reid: Stop kidding.
Sutton: I’m not kidding. We played the second half.
Reid: But I saw all the fans leave the stadium! It was empty! I figured they just ended the game. I went inside, had a couple of pastrami sandwiches, and took a nap.
Sutton: We were kind of wondering where you went, but things were going well, so we just kept on going without you.
Reid: Wow, so you’re telling me that they really made us play the second half?
Sutton: I’m pretty sure that NFL rules say that both halves have to be played.
Reid: Huh. So…did we win?
Sutton: Yes. I mean, it was the Redskins we were playing.
Reid: That’s good. And let me tell you: That was a good nap I had. So I guess it was kind of a win-win?
Sutton: It sure was, Coach. It sure was.
Final Take and Prediction
Despite their poor record, the Vikings haven’t been blown out of many games. The absence of Peterson obviously weakens the Vikings, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a team rallies around a fallen star and raises their play.
The potential of a “trap game” exists. If the Eagles come out slow, it might be a sign that they’re starting to buy into their hype, and an upset might be brewing.
Despite those potential pitfalls, as long as the Eagles’ heads are right, they shouldn’t have much problem with the Vikings, especially if Peterson doesn’t play. Chip Kelly seems to have the team taking things one game at a time, so I think they’ll be fine.
Eagles 31 – Vikings 17