Monday, January 22, 2018

Carson Wentz

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

NFL Playoffs: NFC Conference Championship – Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles

The NFC Championship Game features a showdown between the conference’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles will face off at Lincoln Financial Field in Pennsylvania. The winner will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis on February 4th.

At first glance this matchup appears to be a defensive battle. While that could be the case, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks, both of whom started the season as backups.

Last week, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles went 23 of 30 for 246 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had a passer rating of 100.1. According to NBC Sports he’s the first quarterback in NFL history to have a passer rating of over 100 in his first two postseason starts.

In his first career playoff start, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum went 25 of 40 for 318 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints. He had a passer rating of 85.2.

Both teams won in dramatic fashion last weekend. Philadelphia hung on to beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-10 thanks to a late goal-line stand by the Eagles defense.

The Vikings game ended with a pretty wild finish as well.

The teams are similar in a number of ways. Both teams finished with 13-3 records in the regular season, both have top-five defenses (including the top-2 NFL run defenses), and both teams feature balanced offensive attacks.

However, both teams have their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at how the teams stack up by the numbers.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

2017 Minnesota Vikings Pro Football Focus grades.

Before we get started I would like to make some things clear about PFF grades.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) has been grading NFL players since 2004. The football analytics site evaluates individual performances on a play-by-play basis. On every play of every game, a PFF analyst will grade each player on a scale of -2 to +2 according to what he did on the play.

From the Pro Football Focus website:

pff player grades

The grading method was designed to build a clearer picture of how players performed, rather than simply judging performances based on box-score stats. Stats can be misleading.

While most statistical analysis is quantitative in nature, PFF uses qualitative measures and opinion-based grading as the basis of their rankings, so like baseball umpires, their calls could be construed by critics as “biased.” However, the grading process is overseen by at least three individuals per contest, so while the numbers may not always be perfect, the process itself is rather reliable.

What’s also unique about PFF is that season-level grades also account for the duration of good and bad play, resulting in “compounded” grades (both positive and negative) if the player’s performance continues for long periods of time. Basically, the grades factor in “streaky” play. Kinda cool, right?

Anyways…I hope that helped. It’s better to know these things beforehand because some grades may surprise you.

So without further adieu, here are the 2017 season grades for each qualified Viking. The players are arranged by grade within their position group. Notable position rankings are listed in parentheses.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

NFL.com unveils its year-end quarterback rankings, with a couple interesting selections.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com posted his year-end quarterback rankings Thursday. In a bit of a head-scratching move, Rosenthal ranked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ahead of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum. Rodgers was rated as the No. 11 quarterback and Keenum was slotted in at No. 14.

The 11-13 selections were labeled as the “Brilliant and Breif” category. The trio included Rodgers, Jimmy Garappolo, and Deshaun Watson, in that order. All were rated higher than Keenum, who helped lead the Vikings to a NFC North Championship, a No. 2 seed in the NFC, and a 13-3 regular season record.

Keenum had an 11-3 record as a starter and threw 22 touchdowns and only seven interception in 15 games played. According to Seth Walder of ESPN Keenum had the second-highest QBR among all NFL quarterbacks in 2017 (69.8). Only Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles had a higher rating (75.8). Keenum even surpassed Tom Brady of the Patriots, who was third with a QBR of 67.4.

The regular season stats of the signal callers are in Rosenthal’s QB Index. He wrote the following for each selection:

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings are in good position to make a deep run in the playoffs.

The Vikings suffered an uneasy 24-31 loss to Carolina over the weekend. The defeat may have caused a slight lull in momentum, but a return home after a three-game road trip to face the NFL’s worst offense should put wind back in the team’s sail.

With the playoffs on the horizon, the Vikings currently hold the No. 2 seed in the NFC. If the season ended today Minnesota would have a first-round bye in the playoffs. However, with three weeks remaining in the regular season, a lot can change.

The Philadelphia Eagles are the current No. 1 seed in the conference. Philadelphia won a close game over the Los Angeles Rams over the weekend. In doing so, the Eagles became the first NFC team to clinch a playoff berth. With a one-game lead over Minnesota, it would appear Philly is in the captain’s seat to clinch the No. 1 seed. However, they lost their star quarterback for the season in the win over the Rams.

With the Eagles adjusting to life after Carson Wentz and the Vikings facing a favorable schedule to end the season — hold onto your seats folks.

The Vikings have not officially made the playoffs, but that can change in Week 15. The Vikings can punch their ticket to the postseason in a variety of ways.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings streak of eight consecutive wins ended Sunday with a 24-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The Vikings were weighed down by uncharacteristic mistakes on offense and the defense allowed some rare big plays, but that didn’t stop some positive things from happening during the game in Charlotte. Here are six takeaways from the Vikings loss to Carolina.