Eagles

5 matchups to watch as Eagles face Vikings in Minnesota

5 matchups to watch as Eagles face Vikings in Minnesota

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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2019 NFL playoff picture: The entire NFC East really, really, really sucks

2019 NFL playoff picture: The entire NFC East really, really, really sucks

The Eagles have won one game since the first week of November, and they’ve lost exactly half a game to the first-place Cowboys in the NFC East standings.

The Cowboys lost their third straight game Thursday night, falling to the Bears, 31-24, in Chicago.

This definitely helps the Eagles although not quite as much as you might think.

Here's why:

The Cowboys fell to 6-7 after a 3-0 start. The Eagles are 5-7 with a game Monday night against the 2-10 Giants at the Linc.

But even with Dallas losing Thursday night, the Eagles still have to beat the Cowboys head-to-head and win their three other games to guarantee that they win the NFC East.

That’s because the Cowboys can still lose to the Eagles and finish 8-8 overall and 5-1 in the NFC East if they beat the Rams next Sunday and the Redskins on the final day of the season.

But even with a win over the Cowboys, a loss in any of their other games — to the Giants home and away or the Redskins — would leave the Eagles 8-8 overall and 4-2 in the division.

The Eagles easily win the common opponents tiebreaker with the Cowboys, but that doesn't come into play unless the teams are tied overall, head-to-head and in division record.

But the Cowboys' latest loss does help the Eagles in that if the Cowboys lose to either the Rams a week from Sunday or the Redskins on Dec. 29, the Eagles could afford to lose one of their remaining games and still win the division at 8-8 if they beat the Cowboys head-to-head, since in that scenario the Cowboys would finish 7-9.

The website fivethirtyeight.com, which provides percentages for teams to reach the playoffs based on changeable variables, had the Eagles with a 34 percent chance of winning the NFC East before the Cowboys-Bears game. That would have gone down to 26 percent if the Cowboys won. Instead it increased to 41 percent. 

If the Eagles beat the Giants Monday night, their chances increase to 47 percent. 

It's been so long since either of these teams won a game it seems silly to even talk about the playoff picture. 

But somebody has to win the NFC East. 

We think?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Which coaches are on the hot seat?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Which coaches are on the hot seat?

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast presented by Nissan, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro react to Doug Pederson’s comments about coaching staff accountability and go through his roster of coaches. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill has a concussion. Mack Hollins is gone. Jordan Howard still isn’t cleared for contact and the team hasn’t been the same without him.

And the Eagles do have a game this week! 

• Marken Michel is back and Dave is happy 
• Kamu Grugier-Hill has a concussion 
• Doug says he’ll hold coaches accountable 
• Which coaches might not be back?
• Mack Hollins gets cut 
• A lot of big contributors have gotten cut
• Eagles really miss Jordan Howard 
• Miles Sanders and Saquon Barkley 
• At least one more game vs. Eli 

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