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Ready To Take Game On The Road

Posted Dec 14, 2013

They've practiced every day with noise and the fast tempo and, quite frankly, if you attended a training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field in August, you know the Eagles are prepared for road scenes like the one in Minnesota ...

Nick Foles knows it's going to be loud. The environment at Mall Of America Field is chaotic, and the Vikings have a strong home-field advantage.

But that's why the Eagles have prepared the way they have. They have five road wins already, and nothing that happens on Sunday as far as noise or commotion will hinder the communication process from the sidelines to the field. The way Chip Kelly has his team ready is masterful, really. The Eagles play with great efficiency on the road, and that shouldn't change on Sunday.

There are a lot of things to look at for this game, so let's take a peek ...

  • Who runs the football for Minnesota? Both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are listed as questionable with injuries and neither has practiced much at all this week. I respect Peterson's talents, of course, and his recuperative powers are remarkable. It wouldn't be shocking if Peterson plays. What would be shocking is if Peterson -- or Gerhart, for that matter -- are close to 100 percent. Peterson has the foot injury, as well as a groin injury. Gerhart has a hamstring injury. Next in line for the Vikings is Matt Asiata, a second-year player who had 3 carries for 9 yards last season. He doesn't have a rushing attempt in 2013.

  • Looking a little more deeply into the Vikings' offensive situation, they're also likely without right guard Brandon Fusco (listed as doubtful with a knee injury) and they are down two tight ends as Kyle Rudolph is on injured reserve and John Carlson has a concussion. What the Vikings have on offense is talent at wide receiver in Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Cordarralle Patterson. Look for the Vikings to throw the ball a lot and try to get the receivers some easy catch-and-run opportunities.

  • I know I'm on this injury thing just a bit, and here's why: The Vikings are extremely thin at cornerback. They have ruled Josh Robinson (chest) out for the game and Xavier Rhodes (ankle) is listed as doubtful. Chris Cook (knee) is questionable after suffering an injury in practice, so the Vikings have major problems in pass coverage. It means that Shaun Prater, on the Eagles' active roster earlier this season, and Marcus Sherels, a third-year man who recorded his first career interception on Sunday in Baltimore, are going to play a lot. I can see the Eagles trying to exhaust the cornerbacks with some deep routes and fast tempo.

  • Keep an eye on a great battle as defensive end Jared Allen and left tackle Jason Peters work a lot against each other. Allen plays with ultimate effort and has one of the all-time great bursts off the line of scrimmage, and Peters has played better and better as the season has gone along. A strong performance from Peters allows the Eagles to double elsewhere up front, if need be.

  • Why do I expect the Vikings to blitz a lot?

  • Eagles tight ends Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey have played a collective role in this offense. They've blocked very well to aid the running game. That's part of the equation that needs to be considered here, because the unsung heroes are a huge part of LeSean McCoy's success in this balanced offense. In the passing game, the tight ends have combined for 54 receptions and 7 touchdowns, and they could have some chances on Sunday against a defense that has had trouble covering tight ends this season.

  • Patterson is the most dangerous kickoff return man in the league, and I wonder what special teams coordinator Dave Fipp plans to do here. Does Alex Henery concentrate on height on his kickoffs to give the coverage team time to get down the field? Can Henery kick it through the end zone every time? Does Henerey squib his kicks away from Patterson? Or does the kickoff team play it straight and look to contain Patterson, who has two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season?

  • Quarterback Matt Cassel is a solid pro who has the ability to push the football down the field. The Eagles want to get him moving and playing under pressure, so it's going to be interesting to see how Bill Davis structures his scheme. You don't want the Vikings to get behind the defense, but you also have to be wary of the bubble screens and short passing game.

  • This is the final season for the Vikings at the Mall of America Field, previously known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The last time the Eagles played here was in 2009, in the march to the NFC Championship Game, and Brian Westbrook turned the game around by taking a screen pass 71 yards through the Vikings defense for a touchdown in Philadelphia's 26-14 victory.

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