Season, History On the Line

A week ago, most people didn't think a Vikings-Eagles game was possible. Now some think the Vikings may actually have a chance to beat the overly rested Eagles. We'll find out in just a few hours.

The seasons of mutual high expectations for the 2004 NFL season will come crashing down for one team today – either the Vikings or the Eagles. For the Vikings, 2004 was supposed to be their return to glory as division champions. That didn't happen, but the Vikes avenged their Christmas Eve loss to the Packers by dispatching them last weekend at Lambeau Field. For the Eagles, the No. 1 seed means that, if they are to be denied a Super Bowl appearance for a fourth time, it will have to come on their home field – although they have lost the last two times in the title game at home.

This was supposed to be the rematch of Culpepper vs. McNabb and Owens vs. Moss, but, with Terrell Owens sidelined, Randy Moss has the spotlight to himself – unless Todd Pinkston develops longer arms.

The Vikings entered the playoffs by the most suspect of routes – losing four of their final five games with the only win thanks to a botched extra point by the Lions that prevented overtime. For the Eagles, many of their key starters will see their first full-game meaningful action in 42 days.

Many have prognosticated on the game – some saying the "us vs. the world" mentality of the Vikings will suit them well, while others say, even without Owens, the Vikings are no match for the Eagles.

Just a few hours from now, we'll know. But, regardless of the outcome, there are only six teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl – and the Vikings are one of them. That alone should be considered something of a victory.

GAMEDAY NOTES
* Eagles coach Andy Reid is 8-0 in his career coming out of a bye week and has a 2-0 record as a head coach vs. the Vikings.
* Prior to the final regular-season game in which almost all of the Eagles starters were benched or played sparingly, the Eagles had allowed just two teams to score more than 21 points in any game – ironically the Steelers and Browns. In contrast, the Vikings allowed 11 of their 16 regular-season opponents to score more than 21 points.
* The Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs for the fifth straight year – the longest current streak in the league.
* The only playoff meeting between the teams came in January 1981, when the Eagles hammered the Vikings 31-6 on their way to the Super Bowl.
* Friday marked the fourth anniversary of the Vikings' last playoff defeat – the infamous 41-donut game vs. the Giants.
* Some have drawn the comparison to the Packers and Eagles receiving corps. The Packers, who were already without Robert Ferguson, lost Javon Walker in the second quarter with a shin injury and the result was obvious – Brett Favre threw four interceptions with a receiver corps that had leaned heavily on Walker to bail them out. With Owens, who had more receptions than the next three wide receivers combined on the Eagles roster, on the shelf, some think Donovan McNabb could find the same problems today.
* With the Rams loss Saturday night, if the Vikings win, St. Louis will move into the 18th slot in the first round of April's college draft. If the Vikings lose, they will keep the 18th pick. If the Vikings should advance to the Super Bowl, their first-round pick would drop to No. 31 or 32 – depending on their finish.
* The Vikings hope for a bad weekend for Pennsylvanians got something of a reprieve when the Steelers escaped their first-round game with a 20-17 overtime win over the Jets – thanks in large part to a pair of missed game-winning field goals by former Viking Doug Brien.
* The Eagles have allowed just one quarterback to throw for 270 or more yards in a game – Daunte Culpepper, who threw for 343 yards in Week 2.
* The NFL keeps a statistic called "hurries" that measures non-sack passing situations in which the QB had to get rid of the ball under duress. In Week 2, the Eagles were credited with 21 hurries of Culpepper.
* Do you believe in history? The last time the Vikings beat the Eagles was in 1985, when the team set a record with 28 fourth-quarter points in a 28-23 win.

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