Sports Pulse: USA TODAY Sports experts give us their pick on who will win the NFC Championship, the Vikings or the Eagles.
USA TODAY Sports
For both the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, the NFC Championship Game all comes down to pressure.
Built off the strength of their defensive lines, the two teams have stepped to the verge of Super Bowl LII by harassing quarterbacks and disrupting run games all season long. And reaching the game’s biggest stage likely depends on each offense’s ability to find an answer for that pressure.
For Case Keenum, the challenge is a fitting penultimate obstacle in the Vikings’ pursuit of the Super Bowl.
In filling in for Sam Bradford, Keenum has thrived in the face of an oncoming rush. By consistently side-stepping defenders and remaining cool in the pocket, he has kept Minnesota’s offense efficient (ranking third in third-down conversion rate at 43.5) and relatively mistake-free (third-fewest giveaways with 14).
But last week’s slip-up against the New Orleans Saints almost proved lethal. Keenum had just a 5.1 quarterback rating when under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus, and needed a last-second, 61-yard touchdown strike to Stefon Diggs to advance.
Part of Minnesota’s problems started up front. The Vikings moved Mike Remmers to left guard and had Rashod Hill fill in at right tackle, and both players frequently struggled at the spots.
The Eagles might only exacerbate those issues. Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan are tough for even the most seasoned offensive linemen to handle, and Philadelphia has a steady rotation of edge players (Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett and Chris Long) to wear out opposing tackles.
The Vikings, however, can follow the blue print set by the New York Giants, who racked up 434 passing…