The Eagles hit the road for three straight games, starting Sunday at Minnesota.
Here are our three beat writers’ predictions for the 1 o’clock game.
I’ve gone back and forth on this a couple of times this week. Bottom line, I just don’t like the Vikings that much. Maybe I’m wrong. Kirk Cousins has had some big days against the Eagles when they’ve been hurting in the secondary over the years, and, well, the Eagles are hurting in the secondary.
But the Vikings want to run the ball. Maybe it’s a mistake to assume that just because the Eagles are No. 1 against the run, having faced a group of either uninspiring backs or uninspiring offensive lines thus far, that they will not get pushed around U.S. Bank Stadium by the Minnesota running game. I am willing to risk making that mistake. The Eagles can stop the run, much better than they can stop the pass.
The Vikings have great defensive numbers. I don’t think the Eagles will score, say, 41 points on this trip to Minneapolis. I do think their offense is close to putting some things together. I think the players and coaches realize they are entering a stretch of tough games that likely will define their season, and they will respond accordingly.
There is no chance whatsoever that those words will come back to haunt me, right?
Prediction: Eagles 21, Vikings 20
The Eagles have to do a lot of things right and not much wrong Sunday to beat the Vikings.
They have to neutralize Dalvin Cook, the league’s No. 2 rusher, which will be difficult, but is certainly doable for a defense that is ranked second in the league in opponent rush average (3.2 yards per carry).
They have to keep a lid on Cook while also making sure the Vikings’ two dangerous wide receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, don’t slip behind the secondary or take a five-yard slant and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown.
They have to make Kirk Cousins make the kind of mistakes that Kirk Cousins is capable of making.
The Eagles’ offensive line has to have a big game and keep the penalty count down and give Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders some running room.
Carson Wentz has to continue to play well on third down, and Alshon Jeffery needs to stand up and be counted, sore calf or no sore calf.
The offense and defense both have to play well in the red zone. Winning the turnover battle would be a nice touch, too.
If they do all of that, or even most of it, they can walk out of U.S. Bank Stadium with yet another victory.
Not sure why, but I think they’ll do it.
Prediction: Eagles 31, Vikings 30
The Vikings offense endured a lot of heat when it managed only six points at the Bears just two weeks ago. For the first time this season, the Vikings ran into a defense that had the speed to contain running back Dalvin Cook. Forced to throw, quarterback Kirk Cousins reverted to the “Checkdown Charlie” he has been before under similar circumstances.
While I am not a Cousins lover, it should be noted that Chicago has one of the best defenses, if not the best, in the NFL. It has a top-5 unit in nearly every category across the board. The Vikings had nothing to be ashamed of, and a week later — albeit against a rather tepid Giants defense — they scored 28 points and tallied almost 500 yards of total offense.
Receiver Adam Thielen caught eight passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns and Cook topped 100 yards rushing for the fourth time out of five games this season. Thielen would be a tough assignment alone, but the Eagles will also have receiver Stefon Diggs to cover. Cornerback Rasul Douglas has been Jim Schwartz’s most reliable corner, but he can be susceptible to deep passes, and even if he is stable, who will handle the other side?
Sidney Jones is expected to play, but how much trust can be placed in that balky hamstring?
The Eagles have been able to move the ball on Mike Zimmer’s defense in their two previous meetings. But the master of the double-A-gap blitz and other such pressures doesn’t get out-coached by many offensive coordinators, especially three straight times.
Doug Pederson has been able to win the last two weeks without having to ride the back of his quarterback, but this might be the week he needs Carson Wentz to be otherworldly. Can he do it without field stretcher DeSean Jackson? Sure. But I’m not sure the Eagles have a significant advantage in any matchup on offense.
I’ve picked the Eagles every game this season, so tread softly with the comment-section hate. But I’m begrudgingly siding with the Vikings here. Cook is the kind of speed running back the Eagles defense could have trouble with, and I’m not still not convinced that the inconsistencies on offense will be cleaned up.