The Philadelphia Eagles have fallen back to Earth since their white-hot start that put them at 3-0 before the bye. Since then, Philadelphia lost to the Lions in a disappointing manner by one point and then to the Redskins a week later by seven points. The road does not get easier from here. According to current Super Bowl odds provided by Bovada, the Eagles have the toughest remaining schedule in the entire NFL. That arduous road begins this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings are currently the only undefeated team in the NFL with a 5-0 record. They haven’t stumbled upon that record out of luck either. Minnesota has racked up a +56 point differential heading into this game. Their defense is incredibly good. They have only allowed 12.6 points per game to their opponents. The defense has 12 takeaways while the offense only has one giveaway, which gives the Vikings the best turnover differential in the league at +11. The defense has 19 sacks, which is not a good prospect for the shaky Eagles’ offensive line. Minnesota’s cornerback Xavier Rhodes held Odell Beckham Jr. to three catches for 23 yards and no touchdowns. This game could prove to be a long one unless Doug Pederson and company can come out firing on all cylinders.
The Eagles’ offense might be able to outmaneuver Minnesota’s stout defense if everything goes to plan. The Eagles’ offense is fourth in the league in terms of points scored per game. They are eighth in the league for rush yards per game at 113.6 yards. Pederson should utilize his gameplan from the first three weeks which involved a heavy use of screens and short throws. This plan should be put to use to also help Carson Wentz get the ball out quickly to avoid costly sacks. On top of a quick gameplan, Pederson needs to get an extra blocker on the right side to help rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Finally, the Eagles need to be more disciplined in terms of penalties. Over the past two weeks, the Eagles have committed a total of 27 penalties for 225 yards. That will certainly bury Philadelphia against the Vikings if they can’t get it under control.
This game is likely to be a defensive game rather than a high-scoring affair. Philadelphia’s defense is very good, even if it may not have shown over the past two games. The Eagles only allow 15.6 points per game and have a turnover differential of +6. Philadelphia has 14 sacks as well. This is all good news when compared to the Vikings’ offense. Minnesota has ridden their defense to their 5-0 record. Their offense is mediocre at best. They are right around league average for points scored per game at 23.6. On top of that, they are 30th in total yards per game, 25th in pass yards per game, and dead last in rush yards per game. The line has allowed eight sacks so far. Even with Bennie Logan potentially out, the Eagles should be able to put pressure on Sam Bradford and contain running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. Leodis McKelvin is again back from injury so there is extra secondary help as well.
One of the biggest stories leading up to the game is the fact that Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback for the Vikings on Sunday. After Minnesota’s starter Teddy Bridgewater went down in early September, the Eagles dealt Bradford to the Vikings for a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 conditional fourth-round pick. The trade looks like it has been a win-win thus far for both teams. Carson Wentz looks like the real deal and Sam Bradford is putting together a legitimate MVP candidate campaign. On the year, Bradford has completed a whopping 70% of his passes for 990 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions in only four games. Bradford has been phenomenal in protecting Minnesota’s leads and has made few mistakes as Minnesota’s signal-caller. Eagles fans know that Bradford is not impervious to mistakes and thus, Jim Schwartz needs a scheme that will pressure Bradford to make risky decisions. Bradford says he harbors no ill will toward the Eagles and even stated that he likes to watch the team whenever he gets the chance. Bradford also complimented Wentz saying that the rookie’s work ethic is “above and beyond normal standards.” Still, Bradford will most likely want to stick it to the team that drafted someone to take his job and then ultimately traded him. Philadelphia’s defense needs to be fired up by that prospect.
The Eagles have objectively the hardest road to the playoffs from here on out. They need to find out who they are and quickly or else this season could turn sour. That all begins with this Sunday’s game against Minnesota. The game is likely to be a defensive affair with both teams boasting elite units. The Eagles are a more balanced team with more offensive power which might be able to take down Minnesota’s extremely powerful defense. The Vikings also do not have the best offense and have only really worked with leads while on the field. If the Eagles can come out to a fast start, Minnesota’s anemic offense might not be able to turn things around. The Eagles also need to get the penalty situation under control this week or else it will be another awful showing by the Birds. Sam Bradford has a chip on his shoulder for this game which could prove costly to the Eagles if they can’t get him under control quickly. This weekend should be a very interesting game for both teams.