NFL teams always talk about running the ball effectively, but during the playoffs that credo holds even more. Get the game plan, key matchups and key injuries from both cities as the Eagles and Vikings get set for Sunday's divisional playoff matchup.
VIKINGS GAME PLAN
The Vikings would like to run the ball as well as they did in the fourth quarter at Green Bay. With the Packers desperate for the ball, the Vikings rode RB Onterrio Smith
's nine carries for 38 yards, which included runs of 17 and 10 yards.
Philadelphia ranks 16th against the run. Look for QB Daunte Culpepper
to run more often, and harder. He led the Vikings with 54 yards on six carries at Green Bay. And when he got loose, Culpepper was looking to inflict some pain with his 264-pound frame. Culpepper led the Vikings in rushing with 41 yards on eight carries when they lost at Philadelphia 27-16 in Week 2. He threw for 343 yards, but the Vikings would like to establish more of a running game this time.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson vs. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook — The entire defense will be responsible for making sure Westbrook doesn't control the game with his running and receiving. Westbrook has 812 yards rushing, 703 receiving and a combined nine touchdowns. Henderson led the Vikings in tackles during the regular season with 125. He has gotten better toward the end of the season and is making fewer mistakes when it comes to alignment and adjustment calls. Henderson will need to be sharp when it comes to tackling Westbrook.
Vikings secondary vs. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb — Although McNabb doesn't throw the ball up for grabs like Green Bay's Brett Favre, he still has to be thinking about the four interceptions the Vikings' secondary made in last week's wild-card victory at Lambeau Field. FS Brian Russell and CBs Antoine Winfield, Brian Williams and Ralph Brown each had an interception. Replays indicated SS Willie Offord probably had a fifth. McNabb threw eight interceptions all season. His passer rating of 104.7 was second in the NFC behind Daunte Culpepper's 110.9.
Vikings WR Randy Moss vs. Eagles CBs Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown — Sheppard and Brown certainly have proved themselves as excellent successors to Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Sheppard had five interceptions and was named to the Pro Bowl. But Moss, at 6-foot-4, towers over both players. Moss had 13 touchdown receptions during the regular season and two last week at Green Bay.
RB Moe Williams, who suffered a high right ankle sprain against the Packers, didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. Still, head coach Mike Tice believes he will be able to use Williams in a pass-protecting role. Williams missed the Week 2 loss at Philadelphia. His absence was considered one of the main reasons the Vikings were unable to score touchdowns in the red zone in that game.
WR Randy Moss, who has a sprained right ankle, didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday but will play. He might not be 100 percent, but he can still be effective at less than 100 percent. Don't look for the ankle to bother him too much. This is Moss' stage.
LB Mike Nattiel, who hyperextended his right knee, is expected to play. He's a good special teams player, but his stock as a backup linebacker plummeted because of too many mental mistakes.
SS Corey Chavous, who missed Sunday's game because of a fractured left elbow, didn't practice Wednesday. The Vikings list him as doubtful, but he won't play this week. His backup, Willie Offord, forced a fumble and played well against the Packers in his first start in two seasons.
WR Kelly Campbell is still playing despite a separation of the AC joint in his right shoulder. He practiced Wednesday and is expected to play against the Eagles, but he probably won't return kickoffs. Campbell caught one pass for 12 yards Sunday. He hasn't been a factor in several weeks, but he's still a deep threat when he's on the field.
EAGLES GAME PLAN
Without Terrell Owens, the Eagles likely will focus their passing game on the Vikings' linebackers. They'll move running back Brian Westbrook around and try to get him matched up against a linebacker or safety. Same with tight end L.J. Smith.
Defensively, the Eagles' top priority will be not giving up big passing plays. Daunte Culpepper had just one completion of more than 20 yards in the Eagles' Week 2 win over the Vikings.
Eagles RB Brian Westbrook vs. Viking LBs and Ss — This is the matchup the Eagles will be looking for the most in their passing game.
Eagles LDE Jevon Kearse vs. Vikings RT Adam Goldberg — Kearse is well-rested after three weeks of R&R. Goldberg is a backup replacing injured Mike Rosenthal.
With WLB Mark Simoneau expected to miss Sunday's game with an ankle strain, Keith Adams will get his third start of the season.
RG Jermane Mayberry appears to have made a complete recovery from his tricep injury and will start Sunday.