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Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles Point Spread - Pick

Minnesota Vikings (14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS)
NFC Championship Game
Date/Time: Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 6:40PM EST
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
TV: Fox

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: MIN -3.5/PHI +3.5
Over/Under Total: 38.5

The Minnesota Vikings come to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to face the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC Championship. The winner of this game goes to Super Bowl LII and will have a chance to earn their first Super Bowl title. This NFC title game matches the one-seed Eagles, hosting the second-seed in the Vikes. Both teams opened their postseasons last week in the divisional round. The Eagles were able to withstand a late drive to salvage a 15-10 win over the Falcons at home last Saturday. The Vikings, meanwhile, scored a dramatic 29-24 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday when Case Keenum hit Stefon Diggs with no time left for a 61-yard go-ahead touchdown. It was a mind-bending final play, one that won't be easily forgotten. Can they take it to the next level or will they hit a wall with the Eagles? We'll try to answer that in this NFC title game prediction.

The Eagles were actually underdogs to the visiting Falcons on Saturday, largely because of the well-supported belief that they are a significantly-diminished force without Carson Wentz at quarterback. And that might end up costing them, but not enough to keep them from getting to the NFC title game. On Saturday, Nick Foles started off in errant form. And while the offense didn't have a vintage game, Foles' presence was a definite asset. He ended up going 23-for-30 for 246 yards against a tough Atlanta "D." And with the added questions on the Philly offense, they know they need the defense to step up if the Eagles are going to make a real impact on this postseason. In holding Atlanta to ten points in the divisional round, they just might have the "D" to be more of a playoff factor than some were thinking.

Before being lost in week 14 for the season, Wentz was a leading MVP candidate. Losing that type of player on an offense that is still not a complete unit is going to hurt. They are fortunate to have secured Foles as a backup, being that a team can do a lot worse than him. He's a capable guy, with a lot of skills and guts. But the Philadelphia offense has languished without their star QB. Granted, the Falcons' defense has really come around over the course of the season. Still, they might need more moving ahead and if they have title-dreams in their sights.

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Foles did manage to create some offense with his arm. The Atlanta "D" was pretty tough against the run, as the Eagles gained only 90 yards on the ground on 30 carries. Their only TD of the day was scored by LeGarrette Blount, while Jay Ajayi gained 54 yards, along with 44 receiving yards. They have talented ball-catchers in the form of receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz. Torrey Smith and Corey Clement are nice X-factors in this offense. We'll see what they can come up with this week.

Again, the Eagles rely heavily on a defense that does a lot of things right. And while Atlanta's late-game play-calling might have also played a role, the "D" stepped up at the end of the game with Atlanta poised to win the game late. They've done that a lot this season and being able to avoid late-game drama is worth its weight in gold in a postseason setting. The secondary was all over the field and a big part of Matt Ryan's pedestrian passing performance on Saturday. Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins, Ronald Darby, and Jalen Mills all had good games. LB Nigel Bradham and DE Fletcher Cox added sacks, while LB Mychal Kendricks and DE Vinny Curry also contributed well to the effort. Including the playoff win, this "D" has given up a combined 26 points in their last three games.

Minnesota was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Sunday with that amazing final-play against the Saints. It looked to be a wrap, with the Vikings down to ten seconds on their own 39-yard line. After getting off to a 17-0 halftime lead, the Saints battled their way back and a late TD and a field goal with 25 seconds left put them on top. With 3 scores in the final 90 seconds of play, it was as wild as it gets, with the last play an amazing twist of fate. Granted, it took some shoddy play by the Saints' defense and some dicey New Orleans clock-management late, but it was the kind of win that could give the Vikings a boost moving forward.

Still, final play notwithstanding, the Vikings looked vulnerable. They seemed a bit sleepy to open the second half, letting the Saints get back into the game and set themselves up for the comeback-win. To give up a lead like that at home in this spot was disconcerting and all things considered, they were ultra-fortunate to avert defeat. Still, they now have a chance to make their first Super Bowl in 41 years. And if they do make it, they will play in their home-stadium!

Sunday showed that Minnesota QB Case Keenum is for real. A journeyman until this season, he has taken the reigns and led this team to the precipice of big things. On Sunday, he threw for 318 yards and was a big part of that last play, giving his team a chance to pull off the improbable. The run-game was by no means electric with the one-two punch of Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, but they each scored on the ground and did enough to keep Minnesota's offense moving. Diggs was huge with the final play, as he had 137 yards. WR Adam Thielen was clutch and had 74 yards. And the offensive line was again able to deliver, if not in springing the run-game, at least in protecting Keenum. This week, they look for a more-complete performance on this side of the ball.

The Minnesota defense was matched tough against the Saints on Sunday. And they gave up yards, particularly against Brees and the passing game. They held the dynamic Saints' ground-game to minimal damage. Andrew Sendejo (questionable) and Anthony Barr had picks, while Everson Griffen was his normal disruptive self up-front. Still, in the last three minutes of the game, the Saints scored twice and if not for the great final play by Diggs, this defense would be looking at a scenario where they basically blew the game. Might things be a little more to their liking against the Wentz-less Eagles? They should be pretty tough against the run this week and force Foles to make a lot of plays with his arm.

It's strange when two teams are playing in the title game without the quarterbacks with which they started the season. This features a powerful battle of top defenses and a real slugfest should ensue on Sunday in Philadelphia. This has all the earmarks of a close game, one that might even be a bit on the low-scoring side. It just might come down to the end. A salient case can be made for either side really. In a game where there is a lot of hair-splitting, I keep coming back to the idea that Minnesota's offense is just a little better and more on the upswing and should give them the edge.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Minnesota Vikings minus 3.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Vikings vs. Eagles NFC Championship Game from your home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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