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Revenge Game: Vikings at Eagles

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October 6th, 2018
By: Tanishka Mhaskar and Preet Shah

Can it all come together where it all fell apart?

The Minnesota Vikings (1-2-1) travel to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) at 3:25 PM (CT). This well anticipated revenge game will go down to the wire with two teams desperate for a win. The Super Bowl champions are coming off a heartbreaking 26-23 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans, and the Vikings fell 38-31 to the red hot Los Angeles Rams.

The last time these two teams met was in the NFC Championship when the Vikings were blown out 38-7. This time things are a bit different. Both sides have different quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz, and both defenses are not performing to their full strength. The Vikings are looking to get some momentum on the season and come away with a season saving win. Five keys will help them do this.

1) Protect Kirk Cousins

The Eagles defensive line is arguably one of the best in the league. The Vikings offensive line is one of the worst. Let's just get this out of the way: the OL has been abysmal this year. They have given up 81 pressures through 4 games. The average OL in the NFL gives about 160 pressures a year. This means the Vikings are on track to give up roughly 320 pressures this entire year, which is the most ever since that stat has been recorded.  The OL held up pretty well vs the Rams (better than expected at least). Now we need to see what the interior linemen will do against Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett. Another interesting matchup in the trenches will be Riley Reiff vs Brandon Graham. Reiff has been disappointing this year, much like Graham, so it should be a matchup of the sleeping giants.

2) Establish the Run

So far the much anticipated return of Cook has been underwhelming. At the time of writing this article, he is listed as questionable. Cook did not practice until Friday, when he was limited. The Vikings have not had a 100 yard rusher so far this year. This coupled with that in the last two weeks Cousins has had to throw 105 passes in the last 2 games, due to the Vikings having to play catch up in the majority if those games. If the Vikings want a shot of winning, they have to commit to the run long term and make the play action pass effective for Cousins so he can buy more time. They also need to keep the Eagles alert with the play calling because despite how mediocre the Eagles secondary is, the Vikings OL may not hold up long enough for the passing lanes to open up. Be it the Chef or Tay Train, the Vikings must establish the run.

3) Exploit the Eagles Secondary

It doesn’t take a genius to tell that the Eagles defense hasn't been great so far. Last week they were abysmal in pass situations. For example, they let the Titans convert a 4th and 15 in overtime. They also allowed WR Corey Davis 161 yards and drew a couple of pass interference penalties. Vikings fans would have been salivating at the thought of what Diggs and Thielen would do to this secondary who are deprived of Safety Rodney McLeod. Thielen has started right where he left off last season becoming only the 3rd player to get 100 yards in the first 4 games. The only others being Isaac Bruce and Randy Moss, but keep saying Juju is the best number 19 in the NFL, Steelers fans. Thielen looks to continue this streak against 2nd year corner, who missed all but one game last year, Sidney Jones. Diggs has also been explosive thus far, putting up amazing numbers in three out of the four games so far. He will likely be matched up vs Jalen Mills. If the Vikings want to win they must expose the weak link of the defense. Also expect touchdown machine Aldrick Robinson to have another productive day, or at least give the Eagles another man to potentially worry about.

4) Fix the Coverage

The Vikings secondary has not played very well this season. The cornerbacks and safeties are letting receivers get open and are giving up on routes. Almost all of the Vikings opponents have done a good job isolating a single CB or even LB on their starting TE. The Vikings Safeties must dial in this week to help out the CBs and play tighter coverage. With the Vikings being down to only two DE’s, Minnesota should play LB Anthony Barr at DE, where he played extensively in college, given how much he has struggled in coverage. In exchange for Barr, the Vikings can put in Safeties George Iloka or Andrew Sendejo as a hybrid LB-S. This three safety set would help if they were able to drop Iloka in coverage and isolate Eagles TE Zach Ertz onto the hard-hitting Andrew Sendejo.

5) Generate Pressure

Minnesota has really struggled with play action, partly because the DL is not generating pressure, giving the QB lots of time, and letting the secondary slow down and allow receivers to get open. This year, when pressured Wentz has looked like a deer in headlights. The Eagles OL has looked shaky at best, allowing eight sacks in the last two games alone. The Vikings DL might lose their rotation since they will be without DE’s Everson Griffen (knee/non-injury related) and Tashawn Bower (ankle)  who are listed as out.

The Vikings have a couple of options here. They could use LB Anthony Barr on the line, or they could kick defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who has experience at the position, outside and put Tom Johnson back at defensive tackle.

To generate pressure, the Vikings could also blitz more. Safety Harrison Smith and LB Eric Kendricks are very good at getting past the OL and back to the quarterback. This would put Wentz into uncomfortable positions and force him to throw the ball away due to his limited mobility.

The Minnesota Vikings hope for a season turnaround and revenge for all the 38-7 jokes (Don't tell people on social media that you're a Vikings fan or else the boneheads from Philly will come at you, virtually throwing beer cans. Trust me, Vikings fans have been through worse--aka the 41-0 NFC championship vs the New York Giants. You don't hurt us). Although they are three point underdogs, the Vikings look to leave Lincoln Financial Field with the win.

Preet: Vikings 27 Eagles 23
Tanishka: Vikings 24, Eagles 19