Neither the Minnesota Vikings nor the Philadelphia Eagles finished with winning records last season, but each team showed potential for the future.
The Vikings started the year 5-0 before going on a 3-8 tailspin. However, they finished with the sixth-best scoring defense and posted wins against two playoff teams (the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers).
The Eagles went just 7-9, but they outscored their opponents by 36 points. Like the Vikings, they also beat a few playoff teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Giants.
This season, the Vikings and Eagles improved upon the foundations laid in 2016 and finished with matching 13-3 records. Now they'll face off in the NFC Championship Game for the right to represent their conference in the Super Bowl.
Per OddsShark, the Vikings are three-point favorites, and the over/under total is set at 39 points.
Here's a look at a position-by-position breakdown of the game, as well as a prediction at the end.
Minnesota at Philadelphia: Position-by-Position Breakdown
Vikings quarterback Case Keenum finished second in the NFL with a 67.6 percent completion rate, which was second only to the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees. He has thrived in offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's system and has established a strong rapport with wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller Nick Foles has been up and down since taking over for the injured Carson Wentz in Week 14, but he impressed last Saturday in the divisional round as he completed 23-of-30 passes for 246 yards. Still, Keenum gets the clear edge thanks to his excellent 2017 campaign.
This is a close call. The two-headed monster of between-the-tackles runner Latavius Murray and the versatile Jerick McKinnon has done well ever since rookie starter Dalvin Cook suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 and was forced onto injured reserve. For the season, the two have combined for 1,936 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns.
Eagles running back Jay Ajayi has done well since a midseason trade from the Miami Dolphins, as he amassed 408 rushing yards on 70 regular-season carries, but he hasn't been given the workhorse responsibility yet. Backup running back LeGarrette Blount has rushed for just 2.8 yards per carry in his last six games. Third-stringer Corey Clement is an adept pass-catcher and change-of-pace back but is not utilized much.
In the end, give the slight edge to the Vikings, who have been more productive on the ground this year.
Only two NFL teams had two wide receivers gain 1,000 or more effective yards this year, per Football Outsiders. One was the Detroit Lions (Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate), and the other was the Vikings thanks to the efforts of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
The Eagles wide receivers fared well with starting quarterback Carson Wentz. In particular, Nelson Agholor was one of the league's most improved players, as he caught 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns (compared to 36 for 365 and two the year before).
However, the wideouts (naturally, given the lack of time) haven't formed as strong a rapport with Nick Foles. Even if Wentz was on the field, however, Minnesota would still have the advantage.
Both teams are strong in this department. The Minnesota Vikings' Kyle Rudolph hasn't missed a beat in his first year with Keenum at the helm, as the former Notre Dame star tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns. He's the team's premier red-zone threat and will be someone the Eagles need to keep a close eye on if Minnesota passes the Philadelphia 20-yard line.
However, the Eagles' Zach Ertz has enjoyed a fantastic year, catching 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns in 13-plus games (he left one contest after suffering a concussion). He's done well with Foles, catching 18 passes in their three full games together.
Minnesota's rebuilt offensive line gets the edge thanks to its superior run and pass blocking, per Football Outsiders. The Vikings ranked 19th in adjusted line yards compared to the Eagles' 22nd-place standing, while Minnesota finished sixth in adjusted sack rate (Philadelphia took 12th).
Led by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the Eagles defensive line is the nastiest the franchise has seen since the Reggie White days of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Per Football Outsiders, Philadelphia's defensive line finished first in adjusted line yards and only allowed 3.35 running back yards per carry, which tied a league-best mark. Minnesota took 13th.
The Eagles and Vikings both finished middle of the pack in adjusted sack rate (6.3 percent).
Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr is the headliner here, as he's made three Pro Bowls in just four seasons. Teammates Eric Kendricks is also stout, and he led the team in tackles with 67.
The Vikings get the edge over the Eagles, who are short-handed since losing Jordan Hicks in Week 7 after he suffered a torn Achilles. Still, Philadelphia has Nigel Bradham (team-leading 61 tackles) and Mychal Kendricks (third with 51 tackles) holding down the fort at the position.
The Vikings were only one of three teams to allow fewer than 200 passing yards per game on average this season. The Eagles, on the other hand, finished just 17th in that category.
Admittedly, that stat might be a tad misleading. Many teams were playing from behind against the Eagles this year, so that led to more pass attempts against Philadelphia.
Still, when you look at passing yards per attempt, the Vikings are still on top thanks to a league-best 6.0 yards allowed per attempt. The Eagles aren't too far behind however, as they allowed just 6.5 yards per attempt (tied for third).
Both place kickers have been hit or miss this season. The Eagles' Jake Elliott and Vikings' Kai Forbath are capable of knocking in clutch field goals of 50 yards or more (as each did in the divisional round), but they can also miss extra points (Forbath has missed five and Elliott has missed four, including one in the playoffs).
The difference here is in the return game, as Minnesota is ranked in the top seven in both kick and punt return average. Philadelphia ranks 27th and 11th there, respectively.
The guess here is that this game goes as advertised, with neither offense gaining much traction against tough defenses. Look for Elliott to hit a few clutch field goals, but in the end, give the edge to the Vikings thanks to some late heroics from Keenum, Thielen and Diggs.
Score: Vikings 17, Eagles 16