Game Scout: Eagles at Vikings
Philadelphia Eagles (8-5) at Minnesota Vikings (3-9-1)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Mall of America Field, Minneapolis - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
*Keys to the game: Avoiding turnovers is essential for the Vikings to keep the Eagles within arm's reach. The game plan is dependent upon RB Adrian Peterson (foot), who is likely a game-time decision, but backup Toby Gerhart has 32 carries for 259 yards in the past four games. If Gerhart's hamstring limits him, the Vikings could pass their way into a blowout. QB Matt Cassell starts his third consecutive game and must continue his run of dodging turnovers. The Eagles are fifth in the NFL with 25 takeaways. What Philadelphia does with those extra possessions is the major concern. Minnesota's maligned secondary, soft in the middle and without a shutdown cover man, is working to solve communication problems in the face of a revolving door of personnel. Containing Eagles WR Riley Cooper, with six of QB Nick Foles' 20 TD passes, is down the list a line or two from stopping RB LeSean McCoy. The NFL's leading rusher, McCoy's explosiveness allows Foles to find big plays even on short outlets to the flat, where Minnesota's atrocious tackling could be easily exposed.
*Matchup to watch - Vikings LB Audie Cole vs. McCoy: Cole was released for one day on Nov. 7 but started his second game back and responded with a team season-high 18 tackles and a sack in the tie with the Packers and now has 42 tackles in three starts. This week, his gap assignments must be perfect. McCoy, a sturdy and shifty 5-11, 208-pounder, is coming off a franchise-record 217 yards in a 34-20 win over the Lions that was played in eight inches of snow.
*Player spotlight - Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson: The rookie had 21 receptions all season before Cassell helped propel a recent three-game run with 14 receptions for 199 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown last week. Patterson also averages 33.3 yards per kickoff return with two return touchdowns.
*Fast facts: McCoy has touchdowns of 25, 34, 40, 41 and 57 yards this season. ... The Eagles are just 27 of 93 on third down since Oct. 20. ... Vikings DE Brian Robison has a sack in four consecutive games.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
If Adrian Peterson is on the sideline, the Vikings can forget about spoiling the Eagles' season. When pushed to take risks, QB Matt Cassell reverts to his 2012 form, and Philadelphia leaves the Metrodome with the spoils -- and a firm grip on the NFC East.
*Our pick: Eagles 32-15