Monday, January 10, 2005

Too Bad for Minnesota

It is the Vikings. This morning, Minnesota is an irresolute +9.5 over the Eagles- which I think is just.

Clearly, coming to Philadelphia will be a big challenge for Minnesota. As the line indicates, the Eagles are, for two pro teams in the play-offs, substantially better. I concede the gutty win against Green Bay shows that Minnesota can win a big game outside- but I will also gently point out that the Eagles’ quarterback will not allow Culpepper to beat him 4-0 in the quarterback turnover battle.

I would argue that was essentially the entire story of the Wild Card game between the Vikes and Packers. In this league, if one team holds a +4 margin in turnovers, that teams wins. Forget the rest. The Vikings did not score 31 points because their offense was amazing. 261 yards passing is nice- but not overwhelming. The Packers just kept giving them the ball. The Pack punted three times- and only scored 17 points and loses? At home? Hmmm… If the Vikes do upset Philadelphia Sunday, I cannot imagine a scenario where turnovers are not a huge part of the result.

Accordingly, Minnesota has lots of reason to show up Sunday afternoon- particularly since this is a one and done situation. For one thing, if I had my choice between facing a mediocre outfit with an emphasis on either offense (like Minnesota) or defense (say a better coached Redskins outfit), I would definitely choose the latter. The Eagles could play well here on defense- and Minnesota could still score seventeen points. There is indeed pressure on the Eagles’ offense to perform here. They probably need to score three touchdowns to win- and four to cover and win comfortably- and you can make a case for a out-of-sync Eagles offense, coupled with no TO, to certainly struggle to get to that kind of number.

I imagine the Vikes will try and attack the Eagles much the same way they did the Pack. Keep a back or tight end to deal with the pass rush- and count on their superior receivers to make plays despite double coverage. On defense, gamble everywhere, pressure or force McNabb to make throws to guys short of the sticks, guys who other than Westbrook have singularly not proven they can make plays after the catch.

I don’t have a pick yet- the line of Eagles -9.5 seems very fair frankly. I do think the over/under of 48.5 is a little crazy. The Eagles are no lock to score 28 points in this spot- nor are the Vikings likely to get to 21. So the under looks real appealing today.

Some thoughts on the first game are here: