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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings Monday Night Football Preview

It has been three years since the Philadelphia Eagles played the Minnesota Vikings, and they will look to even the all-time series on Monday night. The Vikings got the best of the Birds the last two matchups, 38-20 in 2019 and 23-21 in 2018. However, the Eagles came away victorious en route to their first Super Bowl victory in the 2017 NFC Championship. Right now, the Vikings lead the all-time series 15-14. Minnesota began their 2022 season with a big 23-7 win over division rival Green Bay Packers. Philadelphia survived a "Hard Knocks" effort from the Detroit Lions to win 38-35.


The Eagles are fully healthy for the matchup, while the Vikings will be without rookie first-round cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., who is out with a quad injury. Here is what we should expect from both teams on Monday night.


Game Info

Date: Monday, September 19th Start Time: 8:30 EST Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field TV Info: ABC


Minnesota Vikings


Offense

Kirk Cousins has not been very successful on Monday Night Football in his career, with a 2-9 Monday record. Will it be another case of the Monday blues for Captain Kirk? Well, for his sake, his only two wins came the past two seasons - both against the Chicago Bears. Last week, Cousins was effective as he completed 23-of-32 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He did a strong job of working under pressure and stepping up in the pocket when he needed to.


The offense really worked through Justin Jefferson, who caught both touchdown passes as well as nine total receptions for 184 yards. That will be a big focus in this game as the Eagles are the team that should have drafted Jefferson in 2020, but instead took Jalen Reagor and saw the Vikings take the LSU receiver. Now Reagor is also on the Vikings. Jefferson has shown to be one of the best young receivers in the game and could take advantage of the Eagles secondary. The rest of the receiving corps is made up of Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Reagor, and Jalen Nailor. There were only six total receptions for the receivers outside of Jefferson, so the offense would have a hard time working without him. They also have tight ends Irv Smith and Johnny Mundt, but they only had a total of five targets for three catches.




The run game is led by Dalvin Cook, who ran for 90 yards on 20 carries last week and looks to take advantage of an Eagles run defense that allowed De'Andre Swift to scamper for 144 yards on 15 carries. Alexander Mattison is the second back behind Cook who gets his share of touches, although only had eight carries last week.


Defense

Shutting down an Aaron Rodgers-led offense to just one touchdown means you have a pretty good defense. The only touchdown the Vikings allowed came on the ground through the legs of AJ Dillon, and Rodgers was picked off once and lost a fumble. They really limited the Packers passing game, as Dillon was actually the leading receiver, with five catches for 46 yards on six targets. Linebacker Jordan Hicks, a former Eagle, was a big factor as he recorded 14 total tackles, one sack, and forced a fumble against Green Bay. It could be a revenge game for the former third round draft pick of the Eagles as he returns to The Linc for the first time. He has a tremendous knack for being around the ball at all times and could make things extremely difficult for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense.



The pass rush was a big key for the Vikings, as that was what lead to the interception of Rodgers which was brought down by Harrison Smith. The Vikings blitzed eight times, while recording four sacks, one knockdown, and six hurries.



The pass rushing duo of Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith each got Rodgers down once and recorded a tackle for loss, as well as linebacker D.J. Wonnum. Smith also came up with a huge goal line stand on 4th and Goal in the second quarter.




The pressure got home plenty of times and allowed an average of just 2.4 seconds of pocket time for Rodgers. Hurts being more of a runner than Rodgers won't make it as easy for the Minnesota defense, as the second-year starter can make a lot of plays with his legs. Whether that's keeping plays alive or running for a big gain. Not that Rodgers doesn't run, but he isn't much of a duel-threat, especially being at the backend of his career.


Philadelphia Eagles


Offense

The Eagles really clicked on all cylinders offensively in Week 1 against the Lions, with Hurts leading the way for a sound game overall. The Lions sent a lot of pressure his way as they blitzed a massive 17 times and only allowed for an average of 2.3 seconds in the pocket. But he was only sacked once in addition to four knockdowns and four hurries, while he ran for 90 yards and walked in for a touchdown.


Hurts did a great job of scrambling and didn't allow for the pressure to get to him. Hurts threw for 243 yards on 18-of-32 passing, while a majority of the targets went to new Eagle A.J. Brown. It won't always be that easy to get the ball to Brown as often. He will certainly have to learn to spread it out a bit more. But the former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback found the former Tennessee Titan 10 times for 135 yards, including a 54-yard bomb. Second-year receiver DeVonta Smith didn't come down with any receptions on just four targets. It will be important to get him going in the passing game and get him in the open field. Tight end Dallas Goedert had just three catches for 60 yards and the Eagles would like to get him going as well. Zach Pascal was the only other receiver to record any catches and he had just one for seven yards.


Much of the offense outside of Brown came from the rushing attack, which hopes to continue that momentum. The offensive line really shut down second overall pick Aidan Hutchison and essentially took him out of the game. Miles Sanders led the way with 96 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries, while the other two backs - Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott - also had one rushing score each. The Eagles offensive line is ranked as the top offensive line in the league by Pro Football Focus as they don't really have a weakness. The group allowed six quarterback pressures last week and each of the starting five a pass blocking grade higher than 70.0. The lone sack was actually attributed to Gainwell per PFF. The highest pass blocking grade was 79.4 from veteran right tackle Lane Johnson. It will be an even tougher game for the line this week facing the dominant Vikings' front. So we will really see what they are made of.


Defense

The Eagles' defense is going to have to do a much better job at stopping the run in this game. They nearly allowed the Lions to come back in the game because of a weak run defense. They essentially allowed big gains every running play. The Lions were able to get a rhythm and have big gash plays, including a 50-yard run from Swift on the SECOND PLAY OF THE GAME. Second back Jamaal Williams ran in for two touchdowns as well, and the big run plays set up the passing plays. The front seven has to create pressure as they didn't create any quarterback hurries, four knockdowns, and one sack of Jared Goff on nine blitzes. The lone sack was also on fumbled snap of Goff and the defensive line didn't create any pressure on non-blitzes.


But all in all, it comes down to the play calling from defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. The Eagles allowed five touchdown drives of at least 70 yards and the Lions to convert 88 percent of their second-half third downs. Gannon has to find ways to get more pressure and that ultimately starts with their playing their FIRST ROUND draft pick Jordan Davis, who they TRADED UP FOR, more. Davis was the best run defender in college football last year and had less snaps than Marlon Tuipulotu, a second-year 6th-round pick who had trouble even making the roster. When the former Bulldog was on the field, the Lions struggled to run the ball, as they had 14 rushing plays for 43 yards (3.1) and without him they had 14 for 138 yards (9.9). He needs to get Davis more snaps in a four-man front, as just four of his 22 snaps came that way, and the rest in either goal line techniques or as the nose tackle.


More pressure will also lead to more takeaways, as Philadelphia only had one against the Lions, a pick six from James Bradberry. It was a huge interception that made the game 21-7, but then Darius Slay had a potential interception slip right through his hands in the third quarter. The Eagles couldn't put the Lions away and didn't have super elite play from their top defensive players in stars Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Slay. None of them made an impact play in the game, while the Birds also had a whopping 15 missed tackles. It was overall a fundamentally bad defensive game from the Eagles and they have to clean it up. A team like the Vikings can stick around even better than the Lions. Taking Jefferson out of the game by doubling him could be in play but they have to create pressure.


Betting Odds:

Points Spread: MIN +2.5 (-110) | PHI -2.5 (-110)

Moneyline: MIN (+116) | PHI (-136)

Over/Under: O 50.5 (-110) | U 50.5 (-110)


The Eagles are slim favorites for the second straight week to open the season, which they will be for much of the first half of the season. Minnesota didn't really show much weakness in their opening win as they played very sound football on both sides of the ball. This matchup has a history of getting out of hand in the past, but it was close in their October 2018 meeting. The way these offenses can pop off, the over is definitely the play here. This is the Eagles' home opener, so they have their fans on their side and should be able to keep it close. But the Vikings' defense and Jefferson will be too much for them to handle. Cousins is a better quarterback than Goff and Cook is a more experienced and sound running back than Swift. Jefferson is one of the best receivers in the league. So bet the Vikings on the points. Until the Jonathan Gannon-led defense proves me otherwise, I can't trust it.


Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 34, Philadelphia Eagles 31
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