By Kevin McGuire
While the Eagles are making a push for an NFC East Division championship, the Vikings are starting to make early NFL Draft plans and looking ahead to 2014. However, the Vikings cannot be taken lightly, especially if Christian Ponder is back and Adrian Peterson is healthy.
Here is a quick look at the next opponent for the Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings have struggled this season, entering Week 15 with a lowly 3-9-1 record and sitting in fourth place in an otherwise wide open NFC North. The Vikings are coming off another tough loss on the road after letting one slip away in Baltimore, 29-26. The Vikings have lost four games by four points or less, but Minnesota is still in search of their first road win of the season (0-6-1). The Vikings own the all-time series edge on Philadelphia with a 12-9 record in regular season match-ups, but the Eagles are 3-0 against Minnesota in the postseason. The last time Minnesota visited Philadelphia was for a Monday night game that was postponed and played on a Tuesday night. The Vikings won that game in 2010 by a score of 24-14.
Vikings on Offense
The strength of the Vikings offense is the running game. It all starts with running back Adrian Peterson, one of the best in the game. With Peterson setting the pace, the Vikings rank seventh in the league in rushing, with Toby Gerhart providing some muscle on short-yard situations. Peterson was carted off of the snowy field at M&T Bank Stadium last Sunday after he suffered a foot injury against the Ravens. While Monday reports confirmed that there are no broken bones or damaged ligaments, Peterson is still “unlikely” to play against Philly this week according to CBS Sports.com.
The quarterback situation is a rough one for Minnesota. Christian Ponder sat out last week in Baltimore as he was recovering from a concussion, but he has been cleared to play this week and should return to the starting lineup. Ponder has more interceptions (nine) this season than he does touchdown passes (seven), so forcing him to make some mistakes will be the focus for the Eagles defense.
Vikings on Defense
Assuming the Philadelphia region is not slammed with another snowstorm that overlaps the scheduled kickoff this weekend, the Eagles should be able to do some damage against the Vikings. Minnesota enters the week with the 31st ranked overall defense in the NFL. The Vikings can be hit on the ground (22nd rushing defense) or the air (29th ranked passing defense). That means the Eagles should feel comfortable handing off to LeSean McCoy or letting Nick Foles throw the football.
Adrian Peterson, Running Back: Not many running backs in the NFL are much better than Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson may be the only running back few argue is better. McCoy may lead the league in rushing after a big game against Detroit in the snow, but Peterson is the NFL’s second leading rusher. He received a bit of a scare on the road against Baltimore last Sunday, but with MRI results negative, we just might see him take the field this Sunday.
Chad Greenway, Outside Linebacker: The Vikings have a couple of rookie linebackers that may be familiar to some local college football fans, but Penn State rookies Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges are only playing reserve roles at best for now. Instead, Chad Greenway, the veteran out of Iowa, leads the Vikings in total tackles with 116. He is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and he has deflected six passes.
The Eagles and Vikings are heading in opposite directions. While the Eagles are making a push for an NFC East Division championship, the Vikings are starting to make early NFL Draft plans and looking ahead to 2014. But the Vikings cannot be taken lightly, especially if Ponder is back and Peterson is healthy. The Vikings will not just slug through a game, so the Eagles will have to make sure their offense is ready to take advantage. This is a good test for the Eagles. Can they beat a team they absolutely should be in firm control of from start to finish? They didn’t in 2010 under similar circumstances, but this is a new era.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.