Vikings vs. Eagles: Final Odds, Spread Picks for NFC Championship Game 2018

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 21, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14:  Adam Thielen #19 of the Minnesota Vikings breaks a tackle from Vonn Bell #48 of the New Orleans Saints during the first half of the NFC Divisional Playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 14, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Two teams that have made and lost six combined Super Bowls but are the owners of three separate miracles will fight for the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII.

The Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles will face off on Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET with Fox carrying the television broadcast. Per OddsShark, the Vikings are three-point favorites, and the game is listed with a 38.5-point over/under total.

Here's a look at three pivotal questions for the NFC Championship, in addition to a prediction.

               

Three Questions and a Pick

Which Team Sets the Tone in the First Quarter?

A big reason why the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to pull off an upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday was because they set the tone in the first quarter with a strong running attack (running back Leonard Fournette had 51 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the first 15 minutes) and tough defense (three Steelers drives ended scoreless).

Likewise, can either team do the same here and take control of the game right away? A massive edge would go to whomever accomplishes this feat.

If it's the Eagles, then an already raucous home crowd will be even more fired up, which would put Minnesota at a disadvantage. If it's the Vikings, then the Eagles crowd could quiet down, helping lead to a strong momentum shift toward the road team.

Philadelphia's best bet at taking control early is through a strong ground game, while Minnesota can go to the air and try to hit a big play with wideout Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs. We'll see if either team grabs the momentum after 15 minutes.

              

How Will the Kickers Fare Under the Bright Lights?

Vikings kicker Kai Forbath is a six-year pro who only made the postseason once before this year. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott is a rookie.

Might their inexperience play a factor with their respective teams' fortunes on the line, or will they have ice water in their veins as they drill some big kicks?

Both players came through in the clutch in the divisional round. Elliott hit a 53-yard field goal as time expired in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons. Forbath gave his team a short-lived 23-21 lead thanks to a 53-yard field goal versus the New Orleans Saints.

Elliott and Forbath have missed some easier kicks this season, however. Elliott went just 4-of-7 on field goals between 30 and 39 yards in the regular season and missed an extra point against Atlanta. Forbath missed five extra points.

Still, they have shown an ability to make long kicks when it matters most. Elliott even drilled a 61-yarder to beat the New York Giants as time expired in Week 3. Ultimately, their performances may be the X-factors on Sunday.

           

Will Vikings WR Adam Thielen Be OK?

Vikings wideout Adam Thielen found his way onto the injury report with a lower back injury. He practiced in limited fashion on Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable.

However, it's hard seeing Thielen miss this game, especially if he had some practice time this week. The question is how effective he will be. If he is anything close to his 2017 regular-season form in which he caught 91 passes for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns, then everything will be OK.

If he's clearly slowed down by the back injury and playing at much less than 100 percent, then the Vikings are losing arguably their top offensive weapon.

That being said, wideout Stefon Diggs could pick up the slack: A midseason groin injury slowed him down, but the former Maryland Terrapin still managed to score nine touchdowns in 15 games (including playoffs). Might he be the hero again?

                   

Prediction

It's hard to pick against Minnesota, who has been one of the league's most consistent teams.

The Vikings' three losses this year were against the 11-5 Carolina Panthers on the road (by just seven points), the 9-7 Detroit Lions at home (in which running back Dalvin Cook suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the year) and the 13-3 Pittsburgh Steelers on the road (in which Keenum made his first start with the team after Sam Bradford suffered a knee injury).

Otherwise, they've dominated the league, and Football Outsiders lists them as the only team with top-five ratings in offensive and defensive efficiency.

This should be close, but the Vikings will come away with a win. If you're in a betting mood, however, consider taking the points and backing the home underdogs.

Score Pick: Vikings 17, Eagles 16

Spread and O/U Pick: Eagles (+3) and under 38.5

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