After picking up yet another win last weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves alone atop the NFC East.
While they would appear to have a favorable matchup against a Minnesota team that could be without its best player, the Eagles know better than to overlook the last-place Vikings.
Philadelphia tries to extend its winning streak to six Sunday when it visits Minnesota, which is uncertain to have All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson available.
The Eagles (8-5) have followed a slow start with five consecutive victories, posting a conference-best 31.6 points per game since Week 9. LeSean McCoy compiled 148 of his franchise-record 217 rushing yards in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia beat Detroit 34-20 in a blizzard last Sunday.
"You get the feeling that it's a real team," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "Guys care about each other and believe in each other. In the last couple of weeks it's really starting to come together, and guys can feel that."
The Eagles later moved one full game ahead of Dallas and into sole possession of first place after the Cowboys were blown out 45-28 at Chicago on Monday.
"The biggest thing we stress each week is whatever opponent that we have, let's just be 1-0 that week," McCoy told the team's official website. "We're not looking down the line to the Cowboys game or (what our record is). We just want to keep winning and control our own destiny."
While the Eagles host the Bears in Week 16 before concluding their regular-season schedule at Dallas on Dec. 29, they first need to get by the Vikings (3-9-1). Philadelphia has taken eight of 10 from Minnesota, including playoffs, but these teams haven't met since 2010.
"We're just a one-week operation, so I literally was thinking about the Vikings game running off the field (last) Sunday," coach Chip Kelly said. "It's, 'What's our next opportunity to go out and see where we are as a team?' and that's what this deal is all about. The teams that are mentally tough can work their way through it, and I think we have a mentally tough group."
While Minnesota has gone winless on the road, it's posted back-to-back home wins over Washington and Chicago in going 3-3 on its own turf.
"It probably is (a trap game) in the media's eye, but we know that Minnesota is a great team and you can't get caught up looking at records or anything like that," center Jason Kelce said. "All you can do is focus on how they play defense, and then for me, focus on what's the best way to attack them and score points."
The Eagles could catch a break if Peterson can't go. The reigning NFL MVP suffered a sprained right foot in last Sunday's wild 29-26 loss at Baltimore, leaving his status for this game unclear.
Peterson shed his walking boot but didn't practice until Friday and is listed as questionable. He is tied for the league lead with 10 rushing TDs and ranks second behind McCoy (100.4) with 93.9 yards per game.
"If it seems to be a problem, for sure we'll err on the side of caution with him," coach Leslie Frazier said. "In talking to our trainers and doctors, they haven't talked to me about further injury. It's more about pain tolerance, and can he do some of the things he needs to do to be able to protect himself?"
Backup running back Toby Gerhart has also missed practice due to a hamstring injury and is questionable
Matt Cassel will be given a second consecutive start after throwing for 265 yards and two scores against the Ravens. Baltimore and Minnesota traded the lead an NFL-record six times in the fourth quarter and combined for five touchdowns over the final 2:05.
"He did a good job on the ballgame on Sunday. He's done a good job when he stepped in a backup role and had to finish games," Frazier said of Cassel, who has posted an 89.9 quarterback rating in three starts this season. "I just decided to give this him opportunity to see if he can continue to build on some of the play that he had."
Cassel will try to keep up with Nick Foles, who leads the NFL with a 120.0 passer rating. Foles threw his first interception against the Lions, leaving him one shy of matching Peyton Manning's record for most touchdowns (20) without a pick to start the season.
Foles, who threw a franchise-record 237 passes without a pick, went on to throw his 20th TD in the third quarter, connecting with DeSean Jackson for a 19-yard score. The Eagles are 6-1 when Jackson finds the end zone.
Jackson and Foles could be in for big days against Minnesota, which has surrendered an NFL-high 29 touchdowns through the air. The Vikings are also allowing 282.5 passing yards per game, the league's 30th-worst mark.
Philadelphia, though, is 31st with an average of 285.3.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved