Friday, January 02, 2009

NFL WildCard Playoffs Pre-Game Analysis: Philadelphia at Minnesota

Minnesota Do's and Don't's:

Speedy Viking wideout Bernard Berrian - with CBs behind - is a view Brad Childress has to hope to see a 1 or 2 times this weekend.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Do your best to pop big plays downfield early and often for Bernard Berrian. The speedy wideout has started to slowly earn the mammoth-contract he earned this past offseason. The guy is also capable of making the 12-15 yard catch, too. While Philadelphia has the best safety in the NFC (Dawkins, of course), Assante Samuel can be beaten downfield without help. It won't be easy, but Berrian has enough speed to break open a route or two. One of the best luxuries of a stud RB like Adrian Peterson is a defense's relaince on stacking the box with an 8th or even 9th defender.

Do allow Antoine Winfield to play wherever he is most comfortable on the field. As talented a cornerback in the NFL, I no longer consider him to be more hype than hope. Poor analogy aside, Winfield can play the run extrmely well and is the type of guy who could slide into the slot and shadow Brian Westbrook. Tough job, but you know he's more than up to it.

Don't allow Donovan McNabb to get too comfortable in the pocket. If McNabb is rattled early and starts chucking ground balls, the Vikings can turn the pressure on the wideouts and tight ends to get open or for McNabb to force a pass or two; especially if the rush D shuts down Westbrook/Buckhalter.

Don't worry about Adrian Peterson and his recent bout of fumbilitis. I don't need to ellaborate. Except...feed your workhose. Forget about next week. There's no reason APete doesn't demand 30+ carries on Sunday afternoon. Wait, I just ellaborated. Dang.

Don't make any mistakes in the punting game, especially when DeSean Jackson is involved. Avoid allowing punt returns tacking on any unnecessary points in a game that is likely to be decided by one posession or less.

Philadelphia Do's and Don't's:

If McNabb starts well, this game will be over well before halftime. Mark it down.

Do what has been working as of late. Feed Westbrook and Buckhalter until it works, even if it's in the passing game. If the Vikes rush D is up to the task, slip in screens for each back and allow DeSean Jackson a go or two in the Wildcat formation. Open it up...with diversity.

Do your best to put the game on Tavaris Jackson's shoulders. With your secondary playing so well, stack the box and put as much pressure as possible on Adrian Peterson. The fumble "issue" has to be somewhere in the back of his head (I think). Not to mention, a lot of players on this team (especially at the skill positions on offense) haven't seen the NFL Playoffs yet.

Do not target LJ Smith on big plays in the redzone. He sucks. A lot. A whole lot. Now I needed to ellaborate.

Do not push David Akers too far if the game is on the line. He's far from clutchless (especially in the playoffs); yet, I question any kick he has over 45-yards. McNabb is no master of the 2-minute offense, so keep that in mind.
Note: With that in mind, I'm predicting Akers hits a game-winner from 44 yards. Boo ya!

Do not gameplan for McNabb to throw 30+ times. The best case scenario will be a 20-27, 200+, 0 turnover type day for Donovan McNabb. Take care of the ball, control the field, and rely on the experience you have at the QB position.

Key Matchups:

When Minnesota has the ball...
Tavris Jackson vs. Jim Johnson

Tavaris, do your best to be extra prepared for the blitz. Of course, there's no way of knowing when and where Jim Johnson is going to send his defenders. Nevertheless, Jackson better know two words by heart: check down. Whether it's Shiancoe, Chestor Taylor, or (preferably) APete, know exactly who might slip through an open seam and be able to make defenders miss downfield.

When Philadelphia has the ball...
Brian Westbrook vs. Minnesota LBs

All too often in the past few weeks, Brian Westbrook has burned opposing defenses for HUGE plays downfield while be matched up on the outside with a not-so-speedy LB. Memo to the Vikings: do your absolute best to avoid that at all costs. Especially on short and 2nd scenarios.


My Best Friend...
Brad Childress and Andy Reid love each other. They're the bestest of friends. How sweet, right? Not so much. I'm wondering which Kornheiser-esque scenario plays out after Sunday: student outdoes mentor or mentor outdoes student.

1st Quarter Box Score
This is the key to everything. Seriously. Whomever has dictated the pace in the first 15 minutes will win this game. I expect a 14-0/10-3 score one way or another. If the Eagles can't score early, they won't score late. Ditto for the Vikings.

Final Score Prediction
Philadelphia wins 26-24

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