Matchups for the NFC championship game Sunday between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles:
When the Vikings (14-3) have the ball
Watch out for Stefon Diggs (14) on a desperation pass!
Seriously [url=http://www.packerscheapstore.com/davon-house-jersey-cheap]Davon House Jersey[/url] , Vikings receivers are more dangerous than given credit for. Indeed, that’s also true for Philadelphia’s wideouts.
Diggs, breakout star Adam Thielen (19), Jarius Wright (17) and even journeyman Michael Floyd (18) can make plays, though the big confrontations will be Thielen and Diggs against CBs Jalen Mills (31) and Ronald Darby (41). These matchups favor QB Case Keenum (7), who has gone from undistinguished fill-in to standout clutch passer.
The passing game will be a key for the Vikings, who will want to get TE Kyle Rudolph (82) involved early. Although the Vikes rank seventh in rushing yardage gained this season – Latavius Murray (25) led the way with 842 yards and eight touchdowns, and was backed by Jerick McKinnon (21) – the Eagles, led by DT Fletcher Cox (91) on a solid front seven, were stingiest against the ground game.
If DLs Cox, Brandon Graham (55), rookie Derek Barnett (96), Chris Long (56) and some of the linebackers can win against an offensive line filled mostly with castoffs – but an efficient enough unit to help Minnesota’s offense score 40 touchdowns – Keenum will need to improvise.
Of course, he’s shown he’s pretty good at that.
When the Eagles (14-3) have the ball:
The Vikings have the NFL’s top-ranked defense overall, with splits of second against the rush and the pass. It is led by cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) and safety Harrison Smith (22), both All-Pros, and a terrific line featuring ends Everson Griffen (97) and Danielle Hunter (99). Few teams have a better linebacking group, with Anthony Barr (55) the main playmaker.
Philly’s challenges include protecting QB Nick Foles (9), who’s not nearly as creative or elusive as Carson Wentz was. Foles needs time to connect with the likes of WRs Alshon Jeffery (17), Nelson Agholor (13) and Torrey Smith (82) and TE Zach Ertz (86). Ertz’s matchups with Barr or Smith could be decisive.
The Eagles have a deep backfield [url=http://www.packerscheapstore.com/kevin-king-jersey-cheap]Kevin King Jersey[/url] , though the way they use Jay Ajayi (36), LeGarrette Blount (29) and Corey Clement (30) can be confounding.
If they get room to run, it will be because All-Pros center Jason Kelce (62) and RT Lane Johnson (65) won against that impressive D-line on the other side.
Foles comes off a strong performance that should silence the doubters. He also is facing a better defense – the best D – this week.
Kai Forbath (2) has missed 8 of 55 extra points in 24 games with Minnesota. After going 15 for 15 on field goals in 2016, he fell off in 2017 by converting 32 of 38. But Forbath went 3 for 3 in single-digit temperatures at Green Bay on Dec. 23, including a 49-yarder. In the divisional-round win at home over New Orleans, he went 3 for 4, including the go-ahead 53-yard kick with 1:23 left.
Marcus Sherels (35) is one of the smallest players in the NFL, but one of the most accomplished punt returners with five touchdowns over the past six seasons. He ranked seventh with an average of 9.5 yards in 2017.
Ryan Quigley (4) finished his first regular season with the Vikings without a touchback, just the second punter to do so in a full season since the NFL began tracking the statistic in 1991.
The player to watch the most is long snapper Jeff Overbaugh (44), who became an emergency replacement after Kevin McDermott hurt his shoulder at Green Bay.
Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott (4) set a postseason club record with a 53-yard field goal last week, but he missed his fourth extra point in 43 tries this season. Elliott is 6 of 7 from 50 or more yards, including a 61-yarder.
P Donnie Jones (8) ranked 17th in net average and Kenjon Barner (38) filled in nicely after Darren Sproles (43) was injured. Barner’s best return went for 76 yards.
Coverage units are solid despite losing special-teams captain Chris Maragos
Two longtime assistants who have had impressive success in charge.
Mike Zimmer achieved plenty as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator, but often was passed over for head coach openings. That changed in 2014 when the Wilf family turned to Zimmer, whose upfront style has been refreshing in the Twin Cities. He is 40-26.
In Pat Shurmur (offense) and George Edwards (defense), he has two top coordinators. Shurmur, a former head coach in Cleveland, has been on several team’s radars for such openings this month.
Former NFL QB Doug Pederson was a loyal assistant for Andy Reid, and he’s got Reid’s former team back in contention for the big game. Pederson’s best skill might be finding the right players for each situation.
He’s 21-12, and he got the Eagles this far despite losing MVP contender QB Carson Wentz in December.
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich also has plugged in plenty of players – including Foles – and prospered. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could be headed for another head coaching opportunity.
Neither team has won a Super Bowl. The Vikings haven’t even been to one since their fourth loss in as many tries, in the 1977 game. No member of the current team was born then.
Minnesota’s incentive is enhanced by the chance to become the first franchise to host the big game in its stadium. Don’t underestimate that kind of motivation.
And don’t overlook the impetus the Eagles are getting from It took them nearly five hours to finish it [url=http://www.packerscheapstore.com/montravius-adams-jersey-cheap]Montravius Adams Jersey[/url] , but the Minnesota Twins finally picked up a much-needed win in Chicago.
Max Kepler drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded in the 13th inning for the Twins, who outlasted the White Sox 2-1 on Thursday afternoon for just their second victory in the last seven games.
The Twins pushed across the go-ahead run after Logan Morrison doubled off left fielder Charlie Tilson’s glove. Hector Santiago (2-3), the sixth White Sox reliever, intentionally walked Ehire Adrianza before walking Jake Cave and Kepler.
”That was a good one to win, for sure, not only because we lost the first two but it was a marathon,” Morrison said.
The Twins salvaged the third game of the series against the White Sox and now move on to play three more contests in Chicago against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field starting on Friday afternoon.
Alan Busenitz (2-0), the sixth reliever for Minnesota, pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory.
The Twins were one out from winning in the ninth inning, but closer Fernando Rodney walked pinch-hitter Daniel Palka, a former Twins farmhand, on four pitches to force in a run. Rodney quickly retired the first two hitters, but Yolmer Sanchez singled to start the rally. Rodney hit Tim Anderson with a pitch, and Tilson walked to load the bases before Palka came to the plate.
Rodney took his fourth blown save in 21 chances this season, ending a streak of 15 consecutive conversions.
”I told him postgame, `That’s a heck of a run,”’ manager Paul Molitor said. ”Today it was a two-out bloop and a change-up that he lost command of. Then he started scrambling a bit.”
Morrison hit his ninth home run deep to right to lead off the seventh for the first run of the game. The drive was just Minnesota’s second hit off White Sox starter Lucas Giolito, who didn’t allow any hits until Eddie Rosario lined a double off first baseman Jose Abreu’s glove with one out in the sixth.
Twins starter Jake Odorizzi tossed six shutout innings in his best outing in more than a month, allowing three hits and striking out eight. The righty, who was 0-3 with an 8.77 ERA in his last six turns [url=http://www.packerscheapstore.com/josh-jones-jersey-cheap]Josh Jones Jersey[/url] , said he’s been ”making adjustments from start to start.” The White Sox hardly threatened to score when he was on the mound.
WALKS IN THE PARK
Giolito recovered after walking the bases loaded in the first for his lowest-scoring outing this season. The 6-foot-6 righty, who lowered his ERA from 7.01 to 6.59, allowed one run on four hits and four walks in 6 1/3 innings. He has issued the most walks in the AL with 51.
Giolito escaped the first without allowing a run despite throwing just 11 of his first 26 pitches for strikes. Then he retired 13 straight Twins betters.
”I honestly didn’t have my rhythm until the last batter of the” first inning, Giolito said. ”I did a pretty good job of filling the strike zone after that first inning. They put a lot of balls in play, and the defense was great behind me.”
Giolito said he was ”kind of” paying attention to his no-hit bid when it reached the sixth inning. ”I probably would have been more aware of it if I had taken it to the seventh or eighth,” he said.
BOOTED FOR BAD WORDS
Anderson, Chicago’s shortstop, was ejected for the second time in his career in the 11th inning when he argued with umpire Gerry Davis after being caught stealing second. ”I kind of said some bad words,” Anderson said.
Twins: RF Taylor Motter hit the wall hard trying to catch Yoan Moncada’s double in the sixth and will be re-evaluated for chest soreness. Motter stayed down on the warning track for a couple of minutes while being tended to by a team athletic trainer, but he remained in the game until Kepler pinch hit for him in the seventh. … SS Jorge Polanco, almost done with an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, was scheduled to DH in one game and play SS in the other in a doubleheader for Triple-A Rochester on Thursday. He can be reinstated on July 5.
White Sox: Sanchez left the game with a bruised left quadriceps in the 13th after tripping on first base when he ran out a grounder. He’s day-to-day. … Manager Rick Renteria said OF Nicky Delmonico (broken right middle finger) will start swinging a bat soon, but he isn’t close to beginning a rehab assignment.
Twins: Ace RHP Jose Berrios (8-5, 3.15) takes the mound against LHP Mike Montgomery (2-2, 3.39) when the Twins meet the Cubs on Friday. Berrios has won his last three decisions over five starts in June and has a 2.10 ERA during the span.
White Sox: RHP Dylan Covey (3-2, 3.45) faces RHP Yovani Gallardo when Chicago opens a three-game series at Texas on Friday. Covey left in the fifth inning of his previous start last Saturday with a right hip flexor strain, but after throwing a bullpen session on Tuesday he said he felt fine.