The Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings are set to play each other this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. In order to preview this big Week 5 game, I reached out to our associates over at Daily Norseman. The candid Christopher Gates (@Gates_DN) took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming tilt. Let’s take a look at his answers.
1 - The Vikings are 1-2-1 after big expectations going into the season. What’s contributed to the slow start?
The biggest contributor to the slow start is that the team has apparently forgotten how to play defense. After being #1 in the NFL in both points and yardage allowed in 2017, they’re giving up 27.5 points a game through the first four games of 2018. The players on the defense, for the most part, haven’t changed, with the exception of adding Sheldon Richardson to the starting lineup (which you would think would be a plus). There seems to be a lot of miscommunication on the defensive side this year for whatever reason, which is strange. This is the fifth season that Mike Zimmer has been the head coach of the team, and just about every player on that side of the ball has been in his defensive scheme since he’s been here. We’ve seen a lot of Minnesota defenders playing at a high level over the course of the past few seasons, and now suddenly the entire defense has gone to crap. Zimmer says that he might be “overcoaching” his defense a bit, but whatever the issue is, they need to get things turned around fast to avoid having a lost season.
2 - What is the Vikings’ biggest strength? Where do they have the biggest edge in this game?
Thus far, the biggest strength the Vikings have shown has been their ability to throw the football. Despite the fact that Kirk Cousins seems to be under pressure on nearly every snap, he’s still been incredibly accurate and is on pace to set single-season team records in both yardage and touchdowns. The offensive line is still every bit the disaster that it was in 2017, but despite that Cousins has been performing to a level that even the most optimistic of fans probably didn’t expect. Having what might be the best wide receiver duo in the NFL certainly helps, and Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been everything Cousins could have hoped for. Thielen has gone over 100 yards in every game this year and is averaging ten catches a game, and Diggs has been earning the big contract he got this offseason as well. Even someone named Aldrick Robinson is getting into the act, as he had two touchdowns on Thursday night. People expected the passing game to be upgraded with the addition of Cousins, but this probably exceeds just about everyone’s expectations. Given that the Eagles’ secondary has had some pretty significant issues over the first few weeks of the year, that seems like an area where the Vikings should be able to take advantage.
3 - What is the Vikings’ biggest weakness? What concerns you the most about the Eagles?
As good as the pass offense has been, the run offense has been awful. The return of Dalvin Cook was expected to bring a spark to the run game, but he’s missed a game and a half with a hamstring issue, and he hasn’t been doing much even when he’s been in there. As of now, the Vikings have the worst rushing offense in the NFL, and are the only team in the league without a rushing touchdown through the first four games. The Eagles have the best run defense in the NFL, so the Vikings likely weren’t going to get much on the ground this week anyway, but the run offense has been disappointing in any case.
As far as what’s the most concerning about the Eagles, it’s obviously their defensive front. As I mentioned in the earlier answer, the Vikings’ offensive line continues to be awful, and that’s a bad place to be against the Eagles’ front four. Despite all of the pressure, Cousins has delivered as expected, but you have to wonder just how long he can continue to keep that up if he has to continue worrying about his health on pretty much every snap. If the Vikings can get him a little bit of time, there should be things that he can take advantage of, but we’ll have to see if it happens.
4 - To what extent would a Vikings win this week make 38-7 and the Eagles winning the Super Bowl in Minnesota hurt less? (Sorry, but I had to.)
I know that I can’t speak for the entire fan base, but for me, personally. . .it won’t. The Vikings could go out on Sunday and win this game 70-0, and it still wouldn’t do anything on that front. The Vikings had their opportunity, and they blew it. It was set up as perfectly as they could have possibly asked for, and they came up short. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a regular season contest that is going to change my attitude about that. I’ll be happy if they win, but it’s not going to erase anything about last year.
5 - Who wins this game and why? Score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Vikings season?
I think this is going to be a pretty good football game, because both of these teams have shown some weaknesses that the other team can take advantage of. However, until the Vikings show that they can stop anybody on defense. . .something that they certainly haven’t shown in three of their first four games. . .it’s very difficult for me to take them in this spot. I still think this team is going to get their season turned around, but I don’t think it starts this week.
Eagles 31, Vikings 27