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A different feeling as Vikings, Eagles meet in rematch of NFC title game

October 1, 2018

The narrative coming out of the Vikings locker room this week, as the team prepares for its trip to Philadelphia on Sunday, figures to be that this matchup is a separate entity from the Eagles 38-7 win over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game last January.

The facts should help that narrative along: The Vikings and Eagles both have different quarterbacks than the last time they faced, with Kirk Cousins coming to Minnesota and Carson Wentz having returned from the torn ACL that kept him out for the NFC Championship Game. John DeFilippo the Eagles quarterbacks coach for the NFC title game is the Vikings offensive coordinator now.

And most importantly, as the Vikings try to rebound from a week where they lost two games in five days, theyre facing an Eagles team going through its own set of growing pains.

Philadelphia is 25th in the league in points through the first quarter of the season, having struggled to finish drives in the red zone so far this season and kicking three field goals of 37 yards or shorter in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Titans on Sunday. The Eagles have dropped both of their road games this season, switching from Nick Foles to Wentz the week they faced the Colts and their former offensive coordinator (Frank Reich).

The matchup, given a late-afternoon national TV audience on Fox, will be between a pair of presumptive contenders still trying to find their footing.

Therell be a tremendous sense of urgency, Cousins said Thursday night. Well have an edge to us in our preparation, an edge to us during the game. Theyre the defending world champions, were playing them at their place, they reloaded and added some talent. Its going to be a challenge, but thats really what this league is all about.

The Vikings returned to work on Monday following a weekend off in the wake of their 38-31 loss to the Rams on Thursday night. Their 1-2-1 record puts them third in the NFC North through the first four weeks of the season, behind the 3-1 Bears and the 2-1-1 Packers.

Their defense, which forced four turnovers in the season opener, hasnt had a takeaway since, and the 556 yards they allowed on Thursday night were the most since the Saints torched a 2-11 Vikings team for 573 on Dec. 18, 2011.

After allowing Jared Goff to post a perfect 158.3 passer rating against them last Thursday, theyll face Wentz, who seemed on track to win NFL MVP honors last season before tearing his ACL against the Rams in December.

And theyll hear plenty from a Philadelphia crowd that figures to remind them repeatedly about the NFC Championship Game result.

You can get things thrown at you, too, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. Youre going to need thick skin. Its just what football is, you know?

A Week 5 win over the defending world champions wouldnt avenge the NFC title game loss, but its benefits would be clear: The Vikings, with just one NFC win to their credit so far this season, can turn things around quickly in a conference where only three teams started the year 3-1 or better.

Theyll play three of their next four at U.S. Bank Stadium after the Eagles game, starting that stretch with an 0-4 Cardinals team before a road trip to face the 1-3 Jets.

A victory on Sunday might be about catharsis for their fans, but for the Vikings, its a chance to stop a three-game winless streak against an opponent that also hasnt been in contending form yet.

In other words, they could jump-start their 2018 season in the building where the 2017 season ended. Its enough to put a sharp sense of focus into the Vikings preparation for a game thats pivotal for reasons far beyond story lines.

It should be the mentality for everybody in the locker room, Richardson said. But once again, those are only words. Weve got to go out and do it.

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