The Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the Minnesota Vikings in the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday Night Football. In order to preview this Week 2 matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Daily Norseman. The courteous Christopher Gates kindly took the time to answer my questions about this upcoming battle. Let’s take a look at the answers. [For my answers to Chris’s questions about the Eagles, check out DN.]
1 - What went wrong for the Vikings in an unexpected Week 1 home loss to the Bucs?
The Vikings, for whatever reason, have this amazing ability to find something that’s working and then stop doing it. In the first half, they were relatively aggressive in pushing the ball downfield and had some success, and then decided that they needed to take their foot off the gas despite not having a commanding advantage. I’m not sure if it’s Kevin O’Connell’s playcalling, the lack of execution from the offense, or that Tampa’s defense was just much better than expected, but an offense with the talent that Minnesota’s offense has should not have had the struggles they did. They made the Bucs look like the Warren Sapp/Derrick Brooks/Ronde Barber Bucs that won a Super Bowl all those years ago.
2 - What are the positives you saw from Week 1?
I think the defense that Brian Flores put out there did show a lot of promise, particularly for the first game in a new scheme. I was expecting things to take a few weeks to gel with a lot of youth in the secondary and a much different scheme than last season, but they held the Bucs’ offense to less than 250 total yards and less than four yards/play while showing a lot of aggression as far as bringing pressure. There are some players that will have the opportunity to shine defensively under Flores’ watch, and the unit as a whole was a net positive, I think. Also, Justin Jefferson is still really good, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
3 - What’s the confidence level in the Vikings’ offensive line (which appears to be banged up) going up against the Eagles’ pass rush?
The tackles are very, very good, provided that Christian Darrisaw’s ankle issue that caused him to miss a few snaps on Sunday is nothing serious. Brian O’Neill was PFF’s highest-graded tackle, which is pretty impressive for a guy that partially tore his Achilles about eight months ago. On the other hand, the interior of the offensive line is a mess. Ezra Cleveland hasn’t really improved over the last couple of years, Garrett Bradbury will not play, Austin Schlottmann (his replacement) is just sort of a guy, and half the time it looks like Ed Ingram is actively playing for the other team. Seeing Fletcher Cox and Jalen Carter and the rest of the Philadelphia interior defensive line scares the hell out of me in this one, and it’s an absolute mismatch that the Vikings are going to have to try to find their way around somehow.
[BLG Note: I lol’d at the Ingram line. Made me think back to Jamon Brown. WARNING: Audio NSFW.]
4 - Stealing one of your questions: Give us one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball for the Vikings that you think will play a role in how this game turns out.
On defense, I think we’re going to have to get a big game out of Khyiris Tonga. He didn’t see a lot of snaps against Tampa Bay, but with the way the Eagles can run the football I think that almost certainly has to change this week. He’s a big, strong body in the middle of the defense that showed himself to be a capable run defender after the Vikings brought him on board last year, and if the Vikings are going to slow down the Philly run game he’s going to have to play a part in it, I think.
On the offensive side, it seems strange to call a guy that got a $7 million/year contract as being “under the radar,” but tight end Josh Oliver isn’t anything close to a household name or anything. The Vikings brought him in to be the primary blocking tight end with T.J. Hockenson filling the primary receiving role, giving them the ability and flexibility to use two tight-end sets and try to move the ball on the ground. The run game wasn’t successful last week, for the most part, and if the Vikings want to have any hope of running the ball in this one he’s going to have to play a role.
5 - Who wins this game and why? With DraftKings Sportsbook listing the Eagles as 7-point home favorites, what’s your score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Vikings season?
This just seems like one of those games where everything is lining up against the Vikings. They’re coming off of a disappointing and unexpected loss and now they get to go on the road on a short week to play a team that went to the Super Bowl last year. I’m sure that the Eagles aren’t exactly thrilled with their performance against the Patriots (even though they got the W, which is the only thing that counts), and they’ll likely be looking to take it out on the Vikings. I think the Eagles will cover at least the seven points in this one, and probably significantly more. That’s going to put the Vikings at 0-2, with both the Chargers and the Chiefs coming to town in the next three weeks, sandwiched around a trip to Carolina. If they’re going to have any hope of turning things around, they can’t wait too much longer in order to do so.