NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Yep, back in August during my NFL previews, I absolutely predicted that Case Keenum and Nick Foles would be the starting quarterbacks in the NFC Championship Game. Sure, I did.
The NFL is a copycat league. Does the fact we have two journeyman quarterbacks playing for a spot in Super Bowl LII mean that other teams no longer will think they need franchise quarterbacks? Uh, no. I believe the only reason the Eagles and Vikings were the NFC's top seeds and are in Sunday's late game is because of extenuating circumstances in their own divisions. I think the Cowboys have a good shot of winning the NFC East if Ezekiel Elliott wasn't suspended six games, for example. And I am quite confident that Green Bay would have repeated in the NFC North if Aaron Rodgers didn't miss half the season with a broken collarbone. Even if the Eagles and Vikings would have won those divisions regardless, I could have seen the Packers/Cowboys at full strength winning on the road in the Divisional Round in Philadelphia/Minnesota.
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Keenum and Foles are quite intertwined. Keenum, who was spectacular at the University of Houston but was an undrafted free agent, debuted with Houston in 2013 and was part of the 2015 St. Louis Rams, first as a backup to Foles and then replacing him as the starter. Foles, a 2012 third-round pick of the Eagles, was great in 2013 as a starter under Chip Kelly, predictably regressed the next year and was traded before the 2015 season to St. Louis for Sam Bradford. In the 2016 draft, the Eagles took Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall and no longer needed Bradford, who was traded to Minnesota before that season when Teddy Bridgewater got hurt. The Vikes signed Keenum this past offseason as a backup to Bradford, and Keenum only got his shot when Bradford was hurt following a terrific Week 1 performance in a win over the Saints. And Foles only got his shot when Wentz suffered a torn ACL in Week 14.
I can't remember a more underwhelming quarterback matchup in a conference title game than this one - and NBC probably is terrified of a Foles/Keenum vs. Blake Bortles Super Bowl. Of course, the Vikings are trying to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. No other team that was hosting had ever gotten further than the Divisional Round that same season (Houston was one last year). If you are wondering, at BetOnline the Eagles are listed at +7 vs. the Patriots in the Super Bowl and +2.5 vs. Jacksonville. The Vikings are +2.5 vs. New England and -5.5 vs. the Jaguars.
Vikings at Eagles Betting Story Lines
This could be Keenum's final game in Minnesota as he's a free agent, although he likely has done enough to get a nice extension (Bradford and Bridgewater are also free agents). There was some talk that Keenum might follow offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to Arizona if Shurmur got that head coaching job, but reportedly Shurmur is headed to the Giants and Keenum wouldn't fit there with Eli Manning still around and New York expected to take a quarterback at No. 2 overall in this year's draft. Foles will return to back up Wentz next year, but highly-regarded QBs coach John DeFilippo is considered the front-runner for the Arizona job now.
Even if Keenum leaves town this winter, he'll never have to buy another beer again in the Twin Cities (if the highly-religious Keenum even drinks) after last Sunday's "Minneapolis Miracle" 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs as time expired to stun the Saints, 29-24, on the first non-overtime walkoff playoff touchdown in NFL history. Not kicking the PAT after the TD at least soothed Saints bettors who took the 5.5 points. I won't go through the whole sequence, but obviously Diggs deserves the bulk of the credit for keeping his balance after the catch. And I still simply don't understand what Saints rookie defensive back Marcus Williams was thinking. The Immaculate Reception is still probably the most incredible, unlikely playoff game-winning touchdown ever (it wasn't a walkoff), but Keenum-to-Diggs is a close second.
I expect this game to be very similar style-wise to the Eagles' 15-10 victory over the Falcons last Saturday - I recommended Eagles +2.5 (first No. 1 seed ever a dog in its first playoff game) and the under, so that worked out well. The Falcons had first-and-goal on the Philly 9 with 1:19 left but couldn't get into the end zone - partly due to terrific Eagles defense, partly due to some questionable Atlanta play-calling and partly due to the fact Julio Jones has to make that fourth-down catch.
This title game should be very much a defensive battle. Minnesota had the No. 1 total and scoring defense in the NFL and No. 2 in rushing and passing, and blanked the Saints for the first half last week. Philadelphia was No. 1 against the rush and No. 4 in scoring but 17th against the pass. So advantage Vikings there, but Philly had 31 takeaways and Minnesota just 19, so advantage Eagles.
Vikings at Eagles Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Minnesota is a 3-point favorite (-115) with a total of 38.5. On the moneyline, the Vikings are -165 and Eagles +145. Some alternate lines: Vikings -3.5 (+110), -7.5 (+195), -10.5 (+277), Eagles -2.5 (+173), Eagles -3.5 (+245). You can buy the total up to 46 as of now. Minnesota is 11-6 against the spread (5-3 on road) and 8-9 "over/under" (4-4 on road). Philadelphia is 11-6 ATS (6-3 at home) and 8-9 O/U (3-6 at home).
The Vikings are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 following a win. The Eagles are 5-1 ATS in their past six home games vs. teams with a winning record. They are 0-4 ATS in their previous four following a win. The under is 10-2 in Minnesota's past 12 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The under is 5-1 in Philly's past six following a win. It is 9-1-1 in the team's past 11 home playoff game. The underdog is 4-1 in the previous five meetings. The under is 5-2 in the past seven.
Vikings at Eagles Betting Prediction
The Vikings are a dome team but in name only - both clubs really are built to play outdoors. The weather on Sunday looks to be pretty decent with a low of 36 and almost zero chance of precipitation. Shouldn't be a factor. These teams met Week 7 last year at Lincoln Financial Field and Philadelphia won 21-10. I take little from that since Bradford and Wentz were the quarterbacks and neither played very well. The teams combined for less than 530 yards of offense and eight turnovers - four on each side.
The Eagles have scored 34 points total in the past nine quarters under Foles, and that's concerning against this Minnesota defense. But the Philly defense is just as good and I prefer the Eagles ground attack to the Vikings' backs. Minnesota is 6-2 on the road, while the Eagles are 8-1 at home, and that one loss was meaningless in Week 17. Philly is 3-0 all-time vs. Minnesota in the playoffs.
The last time the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, which was the Donovan McNabb/Terrell Owens 2004 team, they played the Falcons and Vikings in the NFC playoffs to set up a Super Bowl matchup with the Patriots. While I'd love to see the Vikings at home story line on Feb. 4, I believe it's Eagles-Patriots. Take the 3.5 points and go under.
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