Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Chris Long facing former team; Fletcher Cox's hidden talent

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Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Chris Long facing former team; Fletcher Cox's hidden talent

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Comedian Lewis Black has a joke based around once overhearing a young woman say, "If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college." 

This quote from Chris Long is a little easier to understand: 

"If I never got cut, I wouldn't have a Super Bowl ring."

Before the Rams moved back to Los Angeles, Long was a member of the team for the first eight years of his career. The Rams took him with the second overall pick in 2008. He played 114 games and had 54½ sacks with them. 

But in 2015, Long was hampered by a lingering knee injury and was cut after the season. He was then signed by the Patriots in 2016 and went on to win a Super Bowl. 

So things worked out pretty well. 

That's probably part of the reason Long doesn't have any hard feelings toward the Rams, who he'll see this weekend in their new temporary home at the LA Coliseum. 

"If I didn't play like crap, I wouldn't have got cut. If I didn't get hurt, I wouldn't have played like crap," he said. 

Playing the Rams this season isn't a big deal for Long because he already faced them with the Patriots last season. The Pats won that game 26-10 and Long picked up a sack. 

But the Rams team he'll see on Sunday is much different than the version that went 4-12 in 2016. These Rams are 9-3 and are atop their division with four games left to play. 

Long's teams in St. Louis never had the type of success the Rams are having this year. During his eight seasons there, the best finish the Rams had was 7-9. 

But he's not surprised about the turnaround. 

"Yeah, I could see this coming," he said. "Took a while for guys that were there, but Coach (Sean) McVay had done a great job and there were always some pieces here and there and the defense is playing well, as well. To me, I'm not surprised they're playing well. There's a lot of good people in that locker room and good football players."

Last year, long-snapper Jon Dorenbos became a television sensation with his magic act. Maybe it's Fletcher Cox's turn. 

The Eagles' defensive tackle will be on an hour-long CBS special called "MVP: Most Valuable Performer" on Thursday, Jan. 25, from 9-10 p.m. 

It's basically a giant talent competition for 32 NFL players. Cox's talent is archery. 

Cox, 26, is an avid hunter but didn't start shooting a bow until about four years ago. 

For his performance on the show, Cox isn't exactly sure what he'll be shooting at ... likely some kind of target. Although, he said one of those fake deer would be too easy. 

"Depends," Cox said. "Whatever I decide to come up with, it's going to be good. You'll see, man. I can't tell my secrets."

Cox is one of three contestants planning to showcase their archery skills, along with Packers kicker Mason Crosby and former Eagles DT and Cox's friend, Bennie Logan. 

Among some of the more interesting talents, the Ravens' Alex Collins will be performing an Irish Step Dance, Broncos' Corey Nelson will be reciting poetry and Patriots' Joe Thuney will be solving a Rubik's Cube. 

Does Cox like his chances? 

"I don't talk about losing," he said. "I only talk about winning."

Where am I? 
By the end of this week, Eagles practice squad center Jon Toth will have spent more time at Angel Stadium in Anaheim than he has at the NovaCare Complex in Philly. 

It's been quite a week. 

Toth, a rookie center from Kentucky, was signed to the Eagles' practice squad on Friday but had just three days in his new city before hopping on a flight with his practice squad teammates to meet the Eagles' active roster in Los Angeles. 

"It's been a bit of a change, for sure. Definitely," he said. "It's a good change, though."

Toth was at two rookie minicamps this spring, with the Jets and Rams, before undergoing surgery for a herniated disc. From then, Toth was back home in Indianapolis while he rehabbed.  

He said he wasn't too worried about if teams would have interest. Apparently, plenty of teams did before. He was just worried about getting healthy and continuing his career. 

It just so happened he signed with a team that was about to take a West Coast trip. 

"It's tough but it is what it is," Toth said. "It's a great organization and these guys are very welcoming. They're determined. I'm going to try my best to get to know guys but not be too distracting and let guys go about their jobs and do what they have to do to get a win." 

Quote of the Week I: "Glad he's letting me rent it for the week." — Nigel Bradham on using Mike Trout's locker at Angel Stadium

Quote of the Week II: "I don't have to play next year, but I'm leaning towards coming back. I can't end like this." — Darren Sproles

Quote of the Week III: "We need to get one of them back at our place!" — Najee Goode when he saw the disco ball hanging in the Angels' clubhouse 

Random media guide note: Mychal Kendricks' first job was working concessions for several local semi-pro teams in California. 

What you need to know for Eagles-Vikings tailgate

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What you need to know for Eagles-Vikings tailgate

Several parking lots outside the Linc will open as early as 11:30 a.m. Sunday for fans who require extra time preparing for kickoff for the NFC Championship Game.

The Wells Fargo Center lots as well as the M and N lots — located just east of the stadium — and the P lot, next to Citizens Bank Park, are scheduled to open at 11:30 a.m., the Eagles announced.

The Linc's K lot, just north of the stadium, will open at 1 p.m.

The Citizens Bank Park lots are scheduled to open at 3 p.m.

Gates to the Head House Plaza open at 3:30 p.m. and the inner gates to the stadium open at 4:30 p.m. Located on the north end of the stadium, The Head House Plaza offers outdoor bars, food stands, live music and numerous other pregame activities for fans arriving early. It also includes an entrance to the Eagles Pro Shop.

The Eagles and Vikings kick off the NFC Championship Game at 6:40 p.m.

Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship Game predictions

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Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship Game predictions

Another week, another game with the Eagles being the underdog.

After a dominant defensive performance in a 15-10 win over the Falcons in the divisional round, the Eagles will welcome the No. 2 seed Vikings to the Linc for the NFC Championship Game (6:40 p.m. on FOX).

Despite the Eagles being the No. 1 seed and having home-field advantage, Minnesota is the favorite to advance and play the Super Bowl on their home field in Minneapolis.

Our analysts all had the Birds winning last week. This week, we’ll see who has the Eagles advancing to Super Bowl LII.

Reuben Frank (15-2)
Two great defenses blah blah blah. Underdogs blah blah blah. Carson Wentz got hurt blah blah blah. Forget all the storylines you've heard this week, and say these 16 words out loud with me: "Case Keenum is not going to come into the Linc and win the NFC Championship Game." OK, LOUDER: "CASE KEENUM IS NOT GOING TO COME INTO THE LINC AND WIN THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME." Maybe I'd feel differently if the Vikings were home or if a future Hall of Famer like Drew Brees were coming to town, but you're talking about a relatively inexperienced quarterback who plays his home games in a dome coming into South Philadelphia and dealing with crowd noise, changing weather, a hostile environment and a ferocious defense that's allowed five touchdowns and 9.2 points per game in its last six home games. I don't think Case Keenum can handle what he's about to face Sunday afternoon. I think we're all headed to Minneapolis. 

Eagles 18, Vikings 9

Dave Zangaro (14-3)
I never thought this day would come, if I'm being honest. If you told me in the summer the Eagles were going to be in the NFC Championship Game, I wouldn't have believed you. 

If you would have told me they were going to be in the NFC Championship Game without Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis, I would have told you that you were crazy. 

Now, I'm the crazy one. Because despite all of that and despite the Eagles' technically being the underdogs in this game, I think they're going to win it. 

Had the Saints won last Sunday, I probably wouldn't think that. The thought of Drew Brees coming to town would have been enough for me to pick against the Birds. But then the Minnesota Miracle happened and as great as it was for the Vikings, it could end up being great for the Eagles too. 

Sure, the Vikings are a really good team and maybe they have the best statistical defense in the league and maybe Case Keenum will never come back to Earth. But the Eagles have a pretty good defense too, a good defense that's even better at home. Nick Foles doesn't need to be Carson Wentz, but he will need to make some big-time throws on Sunday; I think he does. I think the defense clamps down at home. I think this improbable run somehow keeps going. 

I think the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl. 

Eagles 18, Vikings 13

Derrick Gunn (14-3)
These two teams mirror each other so much. Both are guided by quarterbacks who were backups on their depth charts when this long journey began. Both have defenses that can clamp down on opposing offenses. Both with identical records. And both have never won a Super Bowl (Vikings 0-4, Eagles 0-2). 

For Nick Foles, it's imperative that he stays within himself. Stick to the short, high-percentage passing game and hopefully get some much needed help from the run game. 

Against the Falcons, the Eagles had 49 yards rushing in the opening quarter but only 47 the rest of the game against Atlanta's ninth-ranked run defense. 

Minnesota's defense is ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 against the run, No. 2 against the pass and No. 1 in points allowed. 

The Eagles' defensive front has to get to Vikings QB Case Keenum before he can find Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Both are excellent route runners with exceptional hands. What a matchup up this is. Pat Shurmur's offense against Jim Schwartz's defense. 

I've gone back and forth all week on who will win this game in what could be your basic backyard brawl. So what I came up with is this: In the final seconds of the game, the Eagles will be down one point when Jake Elliott gets the call and nails a 50-yarder as time expires. Eagles win and dance their way to the Super Bowl.

Eagles 23, Vikings 21

Ray Didinger (15-2)
Offenses are scoring at a record pace and yardage totals keep mounting. The typical NFL Sunday is all about the point totals climbing and fantasy owners cashing in. But now we're in the post-season and this is when the defense flexes its muscles. This is when scores go down and hitting picks up.

When the Eagles and Vikings meet for the NFC championship, it will be all about defense. The Vikings allowed the fewest points (15.8 per game) and fewest yards (276 per game) during the regular season. The Eagles allowed the fewest yards rushing (79 per game) and allowed just 26 points in the last three games, including the 15-10 win over Atlanta in the divisional playoff.

The Vikings had the best defense in the league on third down allowing 25.2 per cent conversions. The Eagles defense was equally stingy at home (26.6 percent). The key to winning this game on the offensive side will be avoiding negative plays. A sack, a penalty, anything that creates a third-and-long situation will kill a drive. A five-yard run will be a big play in this game.

I think the Eagles pressure will eventually get to Vikings QB Case Keenum and that will be the difference.

Eagles 16, Vikings 13

Andrew Kulp (14-3)
The Vikings are a vastly better team than the Falcons in 2017-18, so I'm not sure I quite understand the confidence in the Eagles locally. Nonetheless, I tend to agree with the notion that it's hard to pick Keenum at Lincoln Financial Field in the NFC Championship.

Home-field has and will continue to be a big advantage for the Eagles. The crowd will rattle Keenum the way it did Matt Ryan last week, while simultaneously allowing Foles and the Birds offense to communicate protection calls against the Vikings' exotic pressure packages.

Compare the two rosters side by side, and they're relatively close in terms of talent. It's pretty much a coin flip. The fans are what move the needle here. Plus, the way this entire season has gone, how can anybody around here possibly pick against the Eagles?

Eagles 26, Vikings 17

Corey Seidman (12-4)
Equal QBs. Eagles have the run game advantage. Vikings have the better WR group. Eagles have the better TEs and offensive line. Vikings have the better secondary. 

This one feels like an extremely close game. But with homefield advantage and a better kicker, I’m 52 percent confident the Eagles pull it out and advance to the Super Bowl. 

(Wouldn’t it be the most Philly thing ever, though, if the Jaguars upset the Patriots, Eagles fans go crazy, and then the Birds lose?) 

Eagles 13, Vikings 10