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Critical NFC Championship Game matchup: Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes

Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery catches a pass

Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery catches a pass during practice at the team's training facility in Philadelphia, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

Alshon Jeffery has had a lot of personal success against the Vikings. During his five years with the Bears, the wide receiver had 45 catches for 685 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games. One of those performances was a career-best 12-catch, 249-yard game in 2013.

But the Eagles receiver also knows that his team won only three of those nine matchups. It’s helped him form an opinion that numbers don’t always equate to wins. In fact, he believes they’re mutually exclusive.

“This [is] not basketball,” he told reporters. “It’s football. In football, you need everybody. Players or anyone who has a lot of stats besides the quarterback, I don’t think the team is doing too well. I’m just being honest.”

That could be the case. But a strong game by Jeffery against this familiar opponent in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field could go a long way toward helping the Eagles reach the Super Bowl.

With the Vikings’ defensive front ready to gobble up the run, the Eagles might have to rely on their passing game. Jeffery, who had four catches for 61 yards in the divisional round, could be one of the key pieces to that attack.

“I’m trying to get a win, that’s all that matters,” he said. “I couldn’t care less about the stats.”

Jeffery signed a one-year contract with the Eagles this past offseason and signed a four-year extension last month. He’s become a valuable part of the Eagles’ offense.

In this game, though, he’ll be matched up against an equally significant part of the Vikings’ defense: cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a two-time Pro Bowler who was named All-Pro this season.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he viewed tape of some of the matchups between Jeffery and Rhodes when they were division rivals.

“Just to see the battle that went on and the types of things that Alshon did against him, and the coverage technique that he used,” Pederson said. “Does it apply to this game? Maybe a little bit. I think Alshon’s a better player. I think he’s [Rhodes] a much better player, obviously, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. It’s going to be another great matchup again Sunday evening.”

Jeffery said he’s looking forward to that duel.

“We had some good battles,” he said. “He’s a great competitor. We like to compete against one another.”

But just like numbers, Jeffery insists that he’s not focusing on the defender. Nor is he looking ahead to the outcome.

“Of course we all know that we’re one game away from the Super Bowl, but you’ve just got to relax and you can’t go out there and just think about that in the game,” Jeffery said. “You’ve got to just go play and be relaxed and stick to the things that got you here.”

Notes & quotes: The Vikings listed two starters as questionable on the final injury report of the week: S Andrew Sendejo (concussion) and WR Adam Thielen (back). Both were limited in Friday’s practice. CB Mackensie Alexander (ribs) also is questionable. NT Shamar Stephen (knee, ankle) has been ruled out . . . Eagles LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) was limited Friday and is questionable.

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