The Eagles head to Minnesota for Sunday’s game. The Vikings made the playoffs last year, but have fallen on hard times in 2013. They’re just 3-9-1. What happened?
Looks like there are 2 big factors. First, QB instability. Last year Christian Ponder started all 16 games and played reasonably well. This season the Vikings have used Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman as starters. None of them has played well.
Secondly, close games have been a problem. Last year the Vikings were 5-1 in games decided by a TD or less. This year they are 3-4-1. The problem with running the ball and trying to get by with a mediocre QB is that you don’t leave yourself with much room for error. This year’s team isn’t able to limit mistakes and overcome the ones they do make.
Last year the Vikings were 4-2 in the division. This year they are 1-3-1. I don’t know exactly why this is, but just an interesting note.
Injuries have been a factor in the team’s demise. Just today they were forced to make some moves. Per, PE.com:
- Joe Banyard was promoted from the practice squad to add some depth at running back with both Adrian Peterson (foot, groin) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Matt Asiata, who has three career carries, would start if both Peterson and Gerhart can’t play. Banyard, who is 5 feet 11 and 213 pounds, played collegiately at Texas-El Paso and has been on the Vikings practice squad in 2012 and 2013.
- The team activated safety Harrison Smith from Injured Reserve and placed cornerback Josh Robinson on IR. Smith started all 16 games in his rookie year of 2012 and then started 5 games this season before suffering a turf toe injury. He was placed on Injured Reserve in Week 7.
- With the cornerback position extremely thin because of injuries, the Vikings promoted Robert Steeples from the practice squad and waived offensive tackle Mike Remmers. Steeples, a rookie who is 6-1 and 194 pounds, played with St. Louis in the preseason and then was added to Minnesota’s practice squad. Steeples could see playing time with Robinson out, Xavier Rhodes (knee) listed as doubtful and Chris Cook listed as questionable with a knee injury.
Man…their group of CBs is in bad shape. You have to come out throwing the ball. This just might be one of those games where you throw 20 passes in the 1st half and then work on running the ball in the 2nd half.
I wrote my preview for PE.com before seeing the injury info. The Eagles should win if they play a “clean” game. If the Eagles commit stupid penalties, have careless turnovers and struggle on STs, all bets are off. Those are the kinds of things that equalize a game between an 8-5 team and a 3-9-1 team. I don’t anticipate the Eagles playing a sloppy game, but you never know.
I expect Nick Foles to have a big day. Maybe not 7 TDs, but a really good game. I’m not sure the Vikings have anyone who can come close to running with DeSean Jackson. DJax will be playing on a fast surface. If the Vikes double him, Riley Cooper will have a chance to make some big plays. If the Vikes play Cover 2, Nick will pick them apart underneath.
What will the Minnesota offense look like if AP and Gerhart are limited or can’t go? That’s a tough question. That offense needs a stud RB. WR Cordarelle Patterson is the big X-factor. He’s a threat to go all the way with every touch. And he can be used as a runner from different formations.
— Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) December 15, 2013
Ouch. This really makes life tough for the Vikings.
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Here is a great preview of the game from Evan Silva of RotoWorld.
Eagles-Vikes is one of Sunday’s most fantasy-friendly games. The over-under is above 50 points, and the environment is indoors. A far cry from last week’s Philadelphia snowstorm, this game provides Nick Foles with an ideal setup for monster stats. Not only does Minnesota rank 30th against the pass, Leslie Frazier‘s defense has hemorrhaged an NFL-high 29 passing touchdowns, and lost emerging shutdown rookie CB Xavier Rhodes to a high ankle sprain in Week 14. Among Sunday and Monday’s games, the only quarterback I’d start over Foles this week is Drew Brees. … Foles’ target distribution since returning from a concussion five games ago: Riley Cooper 33; DeSean Jackson 27; Zach Ertzand LeSean McCoy 16; Jason Avant 12; Brent Celek 9; James Casey and Bryce Brown 3. … With at least 60 yards and/or a touchdown in 10-of-13 games this season, Jackson has been among fantasy’s most consistent WR1s despite a somewhat boom-or-bust skill set. He has blowup-game potential on turf against an undermanned opponent. … Cooper has cooled off considerably over the past three weeks, but his target numbers and matchup suggest this is a good week to play him. There aren’t many dice-roll WR3s out there with a higher Week 15 ceiling.
Although each has flashed sporadically throughout the year, neither Ertz nor Celek has a stable enough role in Chip Kelly‘s passing attack to be trusted in fantasy semifinals week. Ertz followed up his 5-68-2 Week 13 game by going catch-less in last Sunday’s win over Detroit. Celek hasn’t cleared 50 yards since September. … Despite facing a Lions run defense that was as stingy as any in football the previous two months, McCoy broke the Eagles’ single-game rushing record with 217 yards in Week 14, besting Steve Van Buren’s 64-year-old mark of 205. Not only is No. 2 overall fantasy back McCoy matchup proof, he doesn’t even have to worry about his Week 15 matchup. The Vikings rank 22nd against the run and have coughed up 13 rushing touchdowns, ninth most in the league. With Adrian Peterson nursing a foot injury and Jamaal Charles taking on an above-average Raiders run defense, McCoy is fantasy’s No. 1 running back play this week.
Despite Christian Ponder‘s (concussion) full clearance, the Vikings will continue to start Matt Cassel at quarterback after he earned the job with back-to-back average performances that included a Week 13 overtime win over Chicago and Week 14 last-minute loss to Baltimore. Cassel is just barely in the two-quarterback-league hunt against Philly’s overachieving defense, which blitzes at the third highest frequency in football and has improved every week. Working against Cassel in Week 15 will be a banged-up Vikings run game expected to be minus Adrian Peterson(foot), and potentially even backup Toby Gerhart (hamstring). Unfailingly, Cassel has been a quarterback who in his career needs a foundation rushing attack to succeed. He’s very unlikely to have that Sunday, making the Eagles’ defense a sneaky fantasy streamer. … Cassel’s 2013 target distribution: Jerome Simpson 34; Greg Jennings 31;Cordarrelle Patterson and John Carlson 19; injured Kyle Rudolph 13; A.P. 11; Jarius Wright 9; Gerhart 6; Joe Webb 4. … Although his stats have been slightly better with Cassel than Ponder, Jennings has hit the 60-yard mark once since Week 4. He’s always a low-upside, ultimately undesirable WR3 option.
Averaging eight targets and five touches over the last month, explosive Patterson has parlayed the manufactured usage into 65 total yards per game and two touchdowns. While Patterson’s consistency is going to remain a concern as a raw rookie in a largely inept passing attack, it’s entirely possible playcaller Bill Musgrave formulates his Week 15 game plan around getting Patterson the rock, with Peterson not expected to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patterson handled 3-5 carries and caught 4-6 passes against the Eagles. He’s a boom-or-bust WR3 with a high ceiling. Still cheap on FanDuel ($5,600), Patterson is an enticing daily league play. He’s a big play waiting to happen. … Wildly inconsistent Simpson scored his first touchdown all year in Week 14 and has topped 60 yards in one of his last nine games. He isn’t a legitimate WR3 this week. … Peterson is always a must-start when active, but looks unlikely to be against the Eagles due to a mid-foot sprain. That leaves banged-up Gerhart (hamstring), who couldn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and fullback-tailback hybrid Matt Asiata in Minnesota’s backfield. Deep in the fantasy playoffs, I’d view this as a situation to avoid with so little workload and health clarity. It doesn’t help that the Eagles play formidable run defense. Philly ranks 15th versus the run and submits 3.95 YPC, the 11th stingiest clip in the league.
Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Vikings 13
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A few comments on the last post and some stuff from the comments section.
RE: Andy Reid
Chip Kelly is off to a great start, but he has to show he can win in the postseason and have sustained success before we can say he’s a better coach than Reid. I like Kelly’s style better because it is more logical, but Reid didn’t win that much based on luck, a soft NFC East or Jim Johnson’s defense.
I still love Andy Reid and everything he did for this organization. He drove me crazy at times, but the man won games and helped put a strong infrastructure in place that is still lacking in Dallas and Washington. His style wasn’t for everyone, but anyone who thinks Reid isn’t a good coach isn’t paying attention.
RE: Fischer / Kasparov
Apparently they never played each other. I should have said Boris Spassky. Oops. Consider yourselves lucky that I knew the names of 2 chess players. That’s 3 more than Jimmy Bama can name.