Vikings vs. Eagles in the NFC Championship: Who You Rooting For?
The Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles will battle in the NFC Championship this Sunday. If you're in North Dakota, who are you rooting for?
The fan base of Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback from Bismarck, ND, took the country by storm since the moment he was drafted. The former NDSU quarterback put up a solid rookie campaign and then blossomed into a second-year player that was running away with the MVP before having his season ended in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams, when he tore his left ACL, which would end his season.
His numbers at quarterback are staggering. Wentz threw for 33 touchdowns and had one of the top ratings at the position in just 13 games, already having led the Eagles to a division win in the NFC East.
Since being picked by the Eagles at #2 overall, the North Dakota fan base has grown exponentially as Philadelphia Eagles fans. If you're ever at a public establishment during one of their games, you can hear the fans cheering for the Eagles almost as much as any other team's fans would in North Dakota. The operative word in that last sentence is 'almost.' That is because the overall fan base in North Dakota is primarily dominated by the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings have had a season that no one could've predicted. After an impressive season-opening victory over the New Orleans Saints in which Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford would earn NFC Offensive Player of the Week, everyone was already thinking it was the Vikings year. Until days after the win, everyone learned that their quarterback was having a problem with a lingering knee injury from prior multiple torn ACL injuries.
In steps backup quarterback Case Keenum. The backup went 1-2 in his first two starts, before relinquishing starting duties to Bradford in a road game against the Chicago Bears. After Bradford was visibly struggling on his still-injured knee, it was clear the Vikings needed to bring Keenum in. The backup would lead the Vikings to a much-needed division win on that Monday night and he would retain the starting job as the injured Bradford went on injured reserve. The success Keenum had was far beyond expectations.
Keenum was 10-1 as the starter during the remainder of the regular season. He threw for 22 touchdowns, just 7 interceptions, and over 3,500 yards. He helped lead the Vikings to the NFC North title and the number two seed in the NFC.
Since Carson Wentz has gone down with his injury, the Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles has stepped in. Foles was 2-1 in the final three games for the Eagles but still helped them to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The game analysis would ask the question, "Could the Eagles still win without Carson Wentz?" But the question amongst the loyal North Dakotans who root for the Eagles, "Will Carson Wentz fans still root for the Eagles in his absence?"
This past Saturday, the Eagles played the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Playoff. The game turned into a gritty low-scoring affair dominated by both defenses, which I happened to witness at a local establishment. It's more than fair to say the Philadelphia Eagles fan base still remains in Bismarck, ND while their favorite quarterback is sidelined with an injury. There was massive cheering for every play the Eagles made and lots of jubilation when their defense stopped the Falcons short of the end zone on the final play of the game. The Eagles won, 15-10.
The next day, I was at that same establishment for the Vikings NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints in Minneapolis. The establishment was packed even more-so and just as Eagles fans were, Vikings fans were hanging on every play right up to the final play of the game, which is now known as the 'Minneapolis Miracle,' when Case Keenum threw to Stefon Diggs in an attempt to get them in range for a game-winning field goal. Instead, Diggs made the catch, evaded the would-be tackler, and scampered the rest of the way (about 30 yards) for the game-winning 61-yard touchdown with no time remaining. The place felt like it was shaking. The Vikings beat the Saints, 29-24.
This Sunday, I will once again watch the NFC Championship at that same establishment as both fan bases will pack the building. I certainly expect there to be an overwhelming amount of Vikings fans to be present, but as the two teams prepare to go head-to-head, I'm curious about how big the crowd will be that's rooting for the Eagles. Based on what I've seen so far, their fans haven't jumped off the bandwagon. Their loyalty has remained. Will that remain to be the case? We'll find out Sunday.
The only question now is, "Who are you rooting for?"