You might be understandably nervous about the Eagles’ chances going up against the Vikings. Make no mistake: Minnesota is a very good team.
But I’m here to tell you that there are a few reasons why you should feel confident about the Eagles’ chances this weekend. Philadelphia has at least four big factors that you can feel good about going into this game.
1 - Doug Pederson
Doug MF Pederson.
Doug “visor-wearin’, sideline-glarin’, screen pass-callin’, fourth-down ballin’, division-leadin’, running-back feedin’, salt and pepper son of a gun” Pederson.
I never would’ve expected to be saying this at the time he was hired, but I have a ton of confidence in Dougie P. You should too.
Pederson’s performance in the Eagles’ first playoff win was fantastic. Sure, the Eagles only scored 15 points. And you can nitpick about how he handled Jay Ajayi’s touches.
But the big takeaway should be that Pederson put together a strong game-plan and did a great job of play-calling. The Nelson Agholor handoff and back-to-back Ajayi screen passes were the standout calls.
Pederson has made some real strong calls like this all season long. He’s creative and diverse in this regard. Think back to Pederson having Carson Wentz roll out to his right only to throw back to Brent Celek on the left side of the field for a big first down conversion against the Rams. Think back to Pederson motioning Agholor into a jet sweep only to have him run back to where he was lined up pre-motion in order to confuse the defender following him. These are just a couple examples of Pederson’s brilliance.
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich praised Pederson’s play-calling ability earlier this week.
What I’ve learned about him and through watching him call plays is probably a little bit more unorthodox at times in a good way – calling two screens back-to-back, for instance, the other day. Some of the stuff, there’s other examples that I don’t even want to get into just for competitive advantage reasons, but there’s other things that he’s called that at the time I thought, that’s unique, I’m not sure that would have hit my brain like that, and many times those things have worked out. So that’s been fun to see and fun to work with.
“Unorthodox” is a great way to describe Doug. Or you could go with “Unorthodoug” but you might hate that suggestion.
Anyway, Pederson gave his thoughts on Reich’s description this week.
I don’t think I go in there consciously saying, ‘I’m going to be unorthodox.’ I think you either have it or you don’t. Listen, if you just look at what I’ve done in two years, you’d probably call me unorthodox with some of the decisions I’ve made on fourth downs and going for it, two-point conversions, things like that. And I’ve told you guys this before that sometimes you just don’t do the norm, just don’t do what everybody expects to you do and sometimes that can help you.
I’m calculated by it but at the same time, I’m going to make sure that I’m putting our guys in a good position.
Peep that “I think you either have it or you don’t” line. That’s straight swag by Dougie P.
Doug’s mixture of creativity and aggression is refreshing. He doesn’t coach scared. He definitely “has it.”
I feel confident saying Pederson is going to give the Eagles a good chance to win on Sunday. We often fall into in the trap of looking at matchups based on players and not giving enough weight to the impact coaching has. In this case, it feels good to go into the game with Pederson leading his men into battle.
And really, it’s not just Pederson. He’s the main guy. But Jim Schwartz obviously deserves mention here as well. The Eagles’ defense is only allowing 10.3 points per game at home since late October. Atlanta only managed 10 points last Saturday and both of those scoring drives came directly off of turnovers.
A number of position coaches have also done great this year. They’re all part of Pederson’s staff, so that ultimately reflects on the head honcho.
2 - The Eagles kick ass in the trenches
2017 PFWA Executive of the Year Howie Roseman made a concerted effort to build the Eagles through the trenches. He poured a lot of resources into the offensive and defensive lines. We’ve seen those units have success all season long, but they really took it to another level against the Falcons. Here are a ton of great clips from the game that show just how dominant the Eagles are in the trenches.
Case Keenum is the third most pressured quarterback in the NFL. Minnesota’s offensive line isn’t all that great. It’s up to the Eagles to dominate them.
Shot 1 - #Eagles HC Doug Pederson said that Fletcher Cox was a 'man on a mission' on Saturday night, and that started from the opening drive. So disruptive against the run and the pass against the #Falcons pic.twitter.com/tN0jtx1iZ4— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 15, 2018
Shot 2 - Those last shots were from JUST the opening drive. Here were some other huge plays from No. 91 from the rest of the game. It was maybe his best overall game on Saturday night, he was excellent. #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/sRW4S6spB8— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 15, 2018
Shot 4 - Brandon Graham was another player who really stood out against the #Falcons. Made a couple of BIG tackles on the final drive to keep Atlanta off schedule. Was disruptive all night #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/AWsEifCozu— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 15, 2018
The Eagles’ o-line will be tested by a tough Vikings defensive line that features Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph. There’s reason to believe the Birds can get the better of Minny in this regard, though.
The old addage is that games are won and lost in the trenches. The Eagles can certainly win games in the trenches.
3 - Best fans in the world
The atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field for the Eagles’ Divisional Round game against the Falcons was pretty crazy. I’ve never experienced the Linc as loud as that. The Philly faithful will be even more crazy this Sunday. The stakes are higher and the home team needs the fans more than ever. Keenum doesn’t have much experience starting on the road in big games in hostile environments like this. Take off your dog masks when the defense is on the field and get loud as you can.
4 - This Eagles just have “it”
Carson Wentz very much has the “it” factor and so does his team. How can you doubt this Eagles team at this point? They’ve continued to prove their doubters wrong at nearly every turn. This team just has amazing chemistry and a strong will to win.