There’s a chance a final shred of confetti from Super Bowl LII is lingering somewhere in U.S. Bank Stadium. If not, maybe a stubborn champagne stain remains somewhere in the Minnesota Vikings’ locker room.
If there is, the Eagles won’t find it. They’re not looking for the memories. At least that’s been the message this week as the team prepares to travel back to the site of the franchise’s greatest accomplishment. Instead, they’re adamant that this week is exclusively about a solid 3-2 Vikings team with the best rushing attack in the league so far this season.
“The only nostalgia I’m going to get is a good edge rush,” Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said. “That’s the only thing I care about.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson added: “It’s a great place, obviously, we had success the last time, but this is different. [The] crowd is going to be different. Environment is going to be different. It’s a noon [Central time zone] game. We have to get ourselves ready to play a good football team, and obviously the crowd will be in their favor.”
Similar to the team’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, there is a makeshift rivalry developing between the Eagles and the Vikings. Sunday will be the fourth time the two teams have played each other in as many years., the most contentious of the games being the Eagles’ 38-7 blowout win in the 2017 NFC Championship Game.
The Vikings got their revenge, albeit with lower stakes, when they came to Lincoln Financial Field last season and took a 23-21 win back to Minnesota in Week 5.
“It’s almost like a division game,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “Obviously that stadium is always going to have a special place in our hearts, but it’s still going to be a Minnesota home game, that crowd is going to be crazy. It’s not going to be remotely close to the environment that we played in two years ago. That game is so far removed from me right now in the middle of the season, all I care about is winning a football game in a hostile environment.”
Hostile it shall be, too. Even beyond the rivalry on the field, it’s unlikely Minnesota fans have forgotten the “Foles” chants mocking the Vikings’ trademarked “Skol” refrain.
Even Eagles center Jason Kelce has noticed the disdain between the two fan bases.
“We’ve had a lot of meaningful games with these guys the last few years and their fans certainly seem to dislike the Eagles fans last time they came into the Linc,” Kelce said. “They’ll probably have the ‘Skol’ chant geared up and it’ll be a fun environment to play football in.”
Kelce’s been busy this week preparing for Mike Zimmer’s defense, with its exotic blitz packages and multiple linebackers crowding him on the line of scrimmage. Not to mention he’s got a newborn baby at home, and three straight road games looming.
Perhaps he’s earned a pass for not thinking too much about how he’ll feel returning to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
“When I step back on the field, maybe something will come back, but when you’re focusing for a game, a lot of times you lose sight of stuff like that,” Kelce said. “Before the media started asking us questions, I hadn’t really thought about it one time. Now, I don’t know if that’s everybody."
If anything could bridge the gap between Minnesota fans and the Eagles faithful, maybe it’s their shared love for Carson Wentz.
Wentz has yet to play a game in the NFL stadium closest to his native Fargo, N.D. It’s just over 230 miles away, but it’s as good as it’s going to get for Wentz’s hometown crew. He expects a big crowd to make the trek to see him play, maybe they’ll be the connecting force between the two feuding fan bases.
“Without a doubt, there will be a big contingency of family, friends, and everything," Wentz said. “I’m excited that they’ll get to see me play live.”
How can he balance family time and game-planning time?