Neither the Vikings nor the Eagles are in peak form coming into their NFC Championship Game rematch, but with the Vikings especially thin along the defensive line, Carson Wentz will get the better of them.
Three big story lines
Returning to the scene
The Vikings will play in front of much of the country, in a nationally televised, late-afternoon game between the NFC’s two best teams from last season. Both clubs are trying to find their stride after early struggles; the Eagles fell to 2-2 after losing in OT last week.
New QBs for the rematch
It will be Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz, not Case Keenum and Nick Foles, who start at QB this time around. The Eagles are 1-1 with Wentz, who succeeded Foles and regained his role as Philadelphia’s starter in Week 3 after coming back from last year’s torn ACL.
DeFilippo returns to Philly
Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who went to high school in Philadelphia while his father, Gene, was the athletic director at Villanova, was Eagles QB coach last season. DeFilippo said he’ll likely have some emotions looking up at the Eagles’ Super Bowl banner during the national anthem, but after that, it’ll be all business.
Two key matchups
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery was one of the first receivers Mike Zimmer had Rhodes shadow, back in 2014 when Jeffery was with the Bears. He’s caught 10 touchdown passes in 10 games against the Vikings, including two in last year’s title game, and Rhodes figures to see plenty of him on Sunday as the Vikings try to slow the Eagles down.
Vikings RG Mike Remmers vs. Eagles DT Fletcher Cox
Cox will play both defensive tackle positions for the Eagles, but Remmers should see quite a bit of him. Cox, who has made the Pro Bowl each of the past three seasons, already has three sacks in four games this season.
One stat that matters
112.0 Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins’ career passer rating in four games at Lincoln Financial Field. Cousins has thrown for 1,329 yards in those games, connecting on 12 touchdown passes against three interceptions.
The Vikings will win if ...
Cousins can replicate the success he’s had in Philadelphia in the past, especially if the Vikings have trouble running the ball against the Eagles defense, and the Vikings avoid giving up the big plays that they’ve surrendered for much of the season.
The Eagles will win if ...
Their defensive front continues to be stout against the run and is able to get the better of the Vikings offensive line, while Wentz rediscovers some of his big-play ability against a defense that’s given up 17 plays of 20 yards or more already this season.
Goessling’s Prediction: Eagles, 23-17
Vikings win probability: 45 percent