Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Five things to watch: Vikings at Eagles
By Kevin Seifert
Before it was delayed 48 hours by a massive snow flurry, the Minnesota Vikings' game at the Philadelphia Eagles wasn't shaping up as the most highly-anticipated matchup of the century. Now? Who knows what we'll see when both teams finally arrive at Lincoln Financial Field for an 8 p.m. ET kickoff.
A few thoughts:
1. Snowbound: Vikings players and coaches spent two days watching free movies, eating free room service and passing the rest of the time as they, uh, saw fit. The Eagles opened their practice facility for a brief walk-through Monday. It's impossible to predict how the Vikings will react to the delay. Did they address two consecutive embarrassing performances in their time together in closed quarters? Or were they marking lines on the wall, keeping track of every minute that brought them closer to rescue? Tonight will mark the 20th game in NFL history to be played on a Tuesday, but the first since 1946. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that game -- between the New York Giants and Boston Yanks -- had been postponed for one day because of rain. So we are in uncharted waters here.
2. Know your history: There are all kinds of conspiracy theories about why this game was pushed back two days. (Apparently it sounds too convenient to cite National Weather Service forecasts of a blizzard, along with a state of emergency in the city of Philadelphia.) One is that the Eagles didn't think their speed-based offense would be at its best in the snow. I can only hope that isn't true. As we noted in what was expected to be our Final Word on this game, the Vikings have only one victory in the past 20 seasons in a prime-time game when the temperature at kickoff was below 40 degrees. Current forecasts call for 30 degrees at 8 p.m. ET in Philadelphia. The Vikings are 1-6 in such circumstances since 1991. After playing in a dome for 28 years, they are at a consistent and undeniable disadvantage in any and all cold-weather venues. The Eagles need not be concerned about the details.
3. FavreWatch: Another conspiracy theory suggests the NFL wanted to give Vikings quarterback Brett Favre (concussion) enough time to be cleared to start. (Perhaps that would be his discipline for sending inappropriate photos and text messages to a former New York Jets sideline reporter.) Seriously, Favre wasn't cleared as of Saturday, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported there were no plans to give him another round of concussion tests in Philadelphia. But to be fair. the Vikings wouldn't be required to divulge that information because they listed Favre as "doubtful" on their injury report. By definition, that left him a 25 percent chance of playing. It's much more likely that rookie Joe Webb will get his first NFL start, but don't forget this tidbit: If Favre does start, he would break the record he currently shares with Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde for most starts after turning 40.
4. FrazierWatch: Interim coach Leslie Frazier has faced the mother of all curveballs in the past three weeks, trying to demonstrate his qualifications for the permanent job while the franchise literally collapsed around him. The Vikings won his first two games but have mailed it in since the Metrodome roof collapse. Should those performances count against Frazier? Does he get a pass under the circumstances? Those questions are difficult to answer, but owner Zygi Wilf will have to render judgment over the next 10 days.
5. Money matters: This delay added to the financial issues the Vikings must sort out in the coming weeks. They've already lost game-day revenue associated with their past two "home" games, and University of Minnesota officials suggested the Vikings paid more than $700,000 to prepare TCF Bank Stadium for their Dec. 20 game against the Chicago Bears. I couldn't begin to estimate how much the Vikings had to pay out to house their team for two extra nights in a hotel, among other associated charges, but I would think it's not insignificant.