Monday, December 29, 2008

Vikings prep for Eagles

The playoffs are upon us! For the first time in four seasons, the Vikings will be playing January football, and they'll have a chance to avenge their last playoff loss, a 27-14 second round loss to the Eagles after the 2004 season. In fact, the Vikings have never beaten the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles in four attempts. The last win over Gang Green came in 1997, when Ty Detmer threw for nearly 300 yards, but Brad Johnson threw for 3 TDs and Robert Smith ran for 125 and a TD in the 28-19 win.

Of course, none of that has anything to do with the current state of the Eagles or the Vikings, for that matter. But you'll probably hear several times this week that the Vikings haven't beaten the Eagles in 11 years, so why not let me be the first you hear it from?

As I was watching the Eagles/Cowboys play-in game yesterday (before it became a laugher), I said to myself, "I really hate the Cowboys and want them to miss the playoffs so the networks have a conniption, but the Eagles give me nightmares. Little pass-catching backs like Brian Westbrook always seem to kill us." Westbrook only had 92 combined yards (46 each rushing and receiving) in last year's 23-16 Eagles victory, but he accounted for both Philadelphia touchdowns. As has been the case throughout McNabb's tenure with the team, the Eagles lack a real #1 receiver, with rookie DeSean Jackson leading the team with 60 catches for 866 yards, and no receiver had more than 3 touchdowns through the air (Westbrook had 5). So, defensively, stopping Westbrook is key, since it'll be difficult to get pressure on Donovan McNabb, sacked just 3.9% of the time this season.

On offense....well, who knows what to expect? Adrian Peterson had exactly one good play Sunday against the Giants, his 67-yard touchdown run. Other than that, he managed just 37 yards on 20 carries and, BTW, had another fumble, after which I was begging for Brad Childress to bench him, at least for a series or two, and bring in Chester Taylor. Of course, that seemed foolish when Peterson ripped off his big run, but when all was said and done, Peterson's other 20 carries could have just as easily been partially doled out to Taylor, who had just four carries (and one catch) on the day. Peterson finished the year with 363 carries, second only to Michael Turner. I pondered a couple months ago that Peterson might be getting too many carries, strange as it may have sounded, and I fear we might be seeing the results.

As for Tarvaris Jackson and the passing game, I give him a "meh" on this game, which is still light-years better than the marks I was giving him a year ago. A few nice deep balls (against a bungling Giants secondary comprised greatly of backup players) was offset by a "That's the T-Jack I know and loathe" interception in the end zone that killed a promising drive. I know my opinion shifts probably more often than it should on a weekly basis, but I think the Vikings need to at least bring in another, non-fossilized quarterback (i.e., no more Gus Frerottes) to compete with Jackson in training camp or at least to provide a decent alternative in case he turns back into a pumpkin.

And what was with the clock management on the final drive of the game? Really. What...the...hell...was...that?

On the bright side, who knew that Maurice Hicks could actually be a good kick returner, at least for one game?

The Eagles hold pretty much every statistical edge on the Vikings going into next Sunday's playoff game. They scored more points. They allowed fewer points. They had more yards. They allowed fewer yards. They have a better turnover differential. They have fewer penalties.

But there's one thing they don't have: Chris Kluwe.

They don't stand a chance.

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