In a sneaky, all-of-a-sudden way, this Eagles-Vikings rivalry is right up there with the best of the best on the schedule this season. This is not a suggestion that the healthy back-and-forth between the fans is in the territory of Eagles-Cowboys – that is hallowed ground, of course – but if you really think about the games these two teams have played in recent years, you’ll believe in the rivalry hype.
Look, let’s start with this: Nobody comes into Philadelphia and sullies the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps – Rocky’s steps, for goodness sakes! – with hundreds of purple-and-gold-clad fans chanting “SKOL, SKOL, SKOL” and dressing up the Rocky statue in Vikings colors, as Minnesota’s fans did the morning of the NFC Championship Game on January 21, 2018, without some kind of retribution. Let’s just say that creative move – gotta give credit where credit is due – didn’t sit well with Eagles fans, who have not forgotten those acts of disrespect.
“We’ve had a lot of meaningful games with these guys in the last few years and their fans certainly seemed to dislike the Eagles fans the last time they came into the Linc,” center Jason Kelce said. “They’ll probably have the ‘SKOL’ chant geared up and it will be a fun environment to play football in.”
For those players who were part of the Super Bowl LII victory at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018, there will be a moment, however brief, of recollection as the Eagles take the field for their pre-game warmups. But that will pass quickly, because the stadium won’t be a 50/50 division of fans. While Eagles fans will do their best to represent – and they do it as well as any fan base in the NFL – the Eagles know they are playing in Vikings country. The stands will be a sea of Vikings colors.
“Doesn’t matter to me,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’ll still hear Eagles fans chanting. That’s a given on the road.”
As for the football itself, it’s a great matchup. The Vikings are third in the NFL in rushing offense and the Eagles rank first in run defense. Minnesota’s defense in ninth in the league in third-down defense while the Eagles' offense is second in conversion rate, at 52.9 percent. Minnesota has a ferocious pass rush off the edge going against terrific Eagles tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. And on and on and on …
“Two good teams,” linebacker Nathan Gerry said. “It’s going to be a great game.”
There have been others in this rivalry, headed by the 38-7 beatdown the Eagles put on Minnesota in that NFC Championship Game. The teams have split 28 games, including the postseason. Graham remembered a game, strangely enough, between the teams in October 2016 when quarterback Sam Bradford led the 5-0 Vikings into Lincoln Financial Field. Only weeks earlier, of course, the Eagles traded Bradford to Minnesota and turned the offense over to rookie Carson Wentz.
The Eagles prevailed in that Week 6 game, 21-10, and Bradford’s career spiraled after that. A season later, the Eagles won in the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota. Last season, the Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins beat the Eagles, 23-21, in Philadelphia.
On Sunday, the Eagles play their first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium and their first regular-season game in Minneapolis since 2013 when then-Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made the bizarre decision to not kick off to Vikings return man Cordarrelle Patterson and the Vikings had great field position throughout a 48-20 win. Crazy game. Weird season. And just another game to remember in this series.
“Whatever happened in the past is the past,” Cox said. “We know how important this game is for us.”
Sunday, then, a rivalry is renewed. It won’t get the attention of Eagles-Cowboys, or Eagles against anybody in the NFC East, but it’s been sneaky good. A series that began in 1962 with the Vikings winning seven straight games until the Eagles beat Minnesota in 1980 has been one to remember since.
“We know it’s going to be physical. We know it’s two teams that like to do the same things,” Graham said. “We’re all gonna be fired up for this one. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”