The Eagles (3-2) are facing the Vikings (3-2) in Minnesota this weekend to kick off a tough three-game road stretch.
Anyone remember the last time the Eagles played at U.S. Bank Stadium?
Yeah, probably. No time for nostalgia, though. This is a tough game.
To the matchups:
Bonus matchup: Dalvin Cook vs. Eagles run D
The Vikings boast one of the NFL’s best rushing offenses and the Eagles have the NFL’s top rushing defense. This is a pretty even fight and it should be a really good one. In fact, it’s such a good matchup, we already looked at it earlier this week. So this is just a bonus here.
Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen vs. Eagles’ corners
If the Vikings can’t get it going on the ground, they can turn to a couple of really good receivers. The Vikings’ receivers voiced their displeasure about their usage earlier this year and last week, Kirk Cousins threw for 306 yards against the Giants.
Even in a year where they’ve already been frustrated by their usage, look at their stats:
Thielen: 20 catches, 309 yards (15.5), 4 touchdowns
Diggs: 16 catches, 253 yards (15.8), 1 touchdown
The problem here is that we all know the Eagles’ situation at corner. While Rasul Douglas has played well, the unit has been decimated by injuries and they won’t have Ronald Darby, Avonte Maddox, Jalen Mills or Cre’Von LeBlanc back this week. We’re looking at Douglas, Sidney Jones, Craig James and Orlando Scandrick in this one.
And Cousins has actually had success against the Eagles. He’s 5-3 against them, averaging 302.9 yards per game.
Eagles’ red zone offense vs. Vikings’ red zone defense
The Eagles have missed those explosive downfield plays without DeSean Jackson, but long drives work if you can get in the end zone and the Eagles have gotten in the end zone at a great clip. They have scored touchdowns on 13 of their 19 (68.4%) trips to the red zone. That ranks them fifth in the league. And they’re averaging 5.63 points per trip to the red zone, which ranks third.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are allowing touchdowns on just 46.2 percent of their opponents’ trips to the red zones. That makes them the fifth-best defense in the red zone.
Something has to give on Sunday.
If the Eagles can’t break the game open with big plays, it’ll be imperative they score touchdowns when they’re in the red zone in what will likely be a close game.
Zach Ertz vs. Harrison Smith
In his last two games against the Vikings, Ertz has had huge games. Check out his stat lines:
2018 Week 5: 10 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD
2017 NFCCG: 8 catches, 93 yards
Again, without the deep threat of Jackson, the Eagles have needed to be more methodical from an offensive standpoint. That makes Ertz so much more important. And he’s had success against the Vikings’ top safety in recent years.
Eagles’ offensive tackles vs. Vikings edge rushers
While a lot of the focus this week has been on Dalvin Cook and the offense in Minnesota, the Eagles are going to face a Vikings defense that has given up just 14.6 points per game. While the Vikings are pretty solid in all three levels of their defense, their two edge rushers set the tone. Through five games, Danielle Hunter has five sacks and Everson Griffen has three.
Hunter lines up on the left side of the line, so he’ll mostly see Lane Johnson, which means Jason Peters will face Griffen on the other side.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Xavier Rhodes
In recent games between these two teams, we’ve seen Rhodes follow Jeffery around the field and that probably won’t change on Sunday. Jeffery and Rhodes have been battling dating back to Jefferey’s time in Chicago.
In last year’s game, Rhodes got the best of him. Jeffery had just two catches for 39 yards. But in the NFC Championship Game in 2017, Jeffery had five catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
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