The quarterback matchup is so unlikely, even Case Keenum playfully made reference to it this week in his media availability with reporters covering the Minnesota Vikings.
“I know this is what all of you guys predicted back in the day — a Foles versus Keenum NFC championship,” he said, referring to Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles. “So good job to all you guys who predicted that.”
Of course, 0.0% of prognosticators could have foreseen Keenum and Foles, both former Rams signed as insurance plans before the 2017 season, would have their teams one win away from the Super Bowl.
But those players will be the focus at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, along with the smothering defenses of the Vikings and Eagles.
Whereas Keenum has had a tremendous season in stepping in for the injured Sam Bradford in Week 2, Foles has been more shaky since replacing the injured Carson Wentz — at the time, the leading candidate to be the NFL’s most valuable player — in the second half of a Week 14 game at the Rams.
Keenum counts Foles among his closest friends.
“A really, really solid guy,” Keenum told reporters this week. “Great faith, great family. My wife and his wife are great friends. His entire family are good people.
“Great football player. Prepares well, extremely talented, big arm and he’s really, really athletic too. I know he’s got a lot of confidence and I’m looking forward to playing against him.”
Philadelphia has gone to the dogs.
With the Vikings favored by three points, the Eagles are home underdogs for the second week in a row.
The Eagles are embracing that status — every team clings to any kernel of disrespect — and last week Philadelphia teammates Lane Johnson and Chris Long pulled on rubber German Sheperd masks as they walked off the field after the victory over Atlanta.
They got those masks on Amazon, and the vendor promptly sold out of them once word spread.
Johnson seized on the opportunity to harness the underdog theme and benefit the community. At last count, more than $100,000 was raised for Philadelphia schools with the sale of “home dogs” T-shirts.
Jumping the gun
Eagles fans were none too pleased this week when the NFL ran an advertisement on its Facebook page for a Super Bowl tickets contest. The ad features action shots of New England’s Tom Brady and Keenum flanking the Lombardi Trophy. Maybe that will be the matchup, but there are a couple of important games to be played first.
3-0 — Philadelphia’s record vs. Minnesota in the postseason.
6 — Times the Eagles have gotten to the NFC championship game since 2000, most in the conference during that span.
14-3 — Philadelphia’s home record under coach Doug Pederson the past two seasons, best in the NFL.
6-16 — Vikings’ road record in playoffs.
25.2 — Third-down conversion percentage of Minnesota opponents, worst in the league.
53 — Length of Jake Elliott’s field goal last week against the Falcons, longest in team postseason history. Elliott has made six of seven from 50 yards or longer, but is 39 for 43 on extra points. In Week 3, he made a walk-off franchise-record 61-yard field goal to beat the New York Giants in Philadelphia.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Minnesota: 23.9 (10) Philadelphia: 28.6 (T2)
Minnesota: 15.8 (1) Philadelphia: 18.4 (4)
Minnesota: 234.6 (11) Philadelphia: 233.6 (13)
Minnesota: 122.3 (7) Philadelphia: 132.2 (3)
Minnesota: 192.4 (2) Philadelphia: 227.3 (17)
Minnesota: 83.6 (2) Philadelphia: 79.2 (1)
Minnesota: 37 (T17) Philadelphia: 38 (T15)
Minnesota: 59.3 (21) Philadelphia: 60.1 (T22)
Minnesota: +5 (T12) Philadelphia: + 11 (4)
VIKINGS — OUT: Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee, ankle). QUESTIONABLE: Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (rib, illness), safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion), wide receiver Adam Thielen (back).
EAGLES — QUESTIONABLE: Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring).
The Eagles are at home, and Keenum makes bad mistakes from time to time, so anything can happen. But Minnesota is more reliable on both sides of the ball, and Foles is going to have a difficult time consistently moving the ball against that Vikings defense.