Eagles-Vikings: Our beat writers’ predictions
Do all four pick the Eagles again?
The Eagles will be back home Sunday, trying to improve to 3-2 by defeating the Vikings in a 4:25 p.m. game. Below, our four beat writers make their predictions.
There can't really be a "must-win" game in Week 5 for a 2-2 team. But this kind of has that feel. If all that stuff that the Eagles kept telling us was fixable from the overtime loss Sunday in Tennessee really was so easily corrected, they will beat the Vikings and continue their home dominance (they've won 12 of their last 13 at Lincoln Financial Field, and the lone loss was that meaningless Week 17 game against Dallas last season).
If the Eagles don't win this game, the season certainly won't be over, but I think expectations have to be adjusted. We'd be looking at a 2-3 team that probably will have to scratch and claw for a playoff berth, let alone a first-round bye and home field. The 2017 Eagles lost three games all season, including the aforementioned regular-season finale.
Kirk Cousins certainly has won in Philadelphia before. He could win here again, if we see anything close to the defensive meltdown the Eagles experienced at Tennessee. But that was the "road" defense, which allows nearly 27 points and 417 yards per game this season. At home, those figures are 14 and 254.
I think Carson Wentz is rounding into form, and I don't see a Vikings defense that is going to interrupt that process.
Prediction: Eagles 28, Vikings 20.
Given the way the Eagles secondary struggled against a Tennessee offense that doesn't have anywhere close to the pass-catching weapons the Vikings do, there is genuine reason for concern Sunday. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are every bit as dangerous a tandem as the Bucs' Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, and you saw how that went.
The difference, however, is the Bucs had an offensive line that could buy Ryan Fitzpatrick some time. I'm not sure the Vikings o-line is going to be able to do that for Kirk Cousins.
Cousins has had to get the ball out quickly to Diggs and Thielen. They've combined for 67 catches and five TDs, but are averaging only 11 yards per catch. The Vikings are near the bottom of the league in 20-plus-yard pass plays.
The Eagles need to tackle much better than they did last week and limit the Vikings' yards after the catch.
The Eagles offense, however, has its own protection issues that it needs to solve. Wentz has been sacked nine times in his first two starts back. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is going to load up those "A" gap blitzes and come after him.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Vikings 24
The returning NFC-championship combatants are off to rough starts this season. The 1-2-1 Vikings opened the season with a victory over the 49ers, but they haven't won since and will be playing with their backs against the wall, so to speak. New quarterback Kirk Cousins has played well. His numbers are impressive (a 103.6 passer rating), and he's developed instant chemistry with receivers Adam Thielen (40 catches for 473 yards) and Stefon Diggs (27 catches for 311 yards).
Minnesota offensive coordinator — and former Eagles assistant — John DeFilippo is sure to attack struggling cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby and new free safety Avonte Maddox. The Eagles' defensive success will likely hinge on whether the pass rushers can win battles up front against a suspect offensive line. The Vikings are susceptible up the middle, particularly guards Tom Compton and Mike Remmers. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox should win one-on-ones – if he sees any.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings employ a 4-3 front that will be without All-Pro defensive end Everson Griffen. Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer loves the double A-gap blitz, but he'll be exotic in other ways. The Eagles have struggled against extra rushers, but offenses have taken advantage of the Vikings' aggressive front with play action. Linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks — typically reliable in coverage — have been exploited. Doug Pederson might look to pass out of his two-tight-end set with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
An Eagles avalanche overwhelmed Minnesota in the conference title game in January, but both teams are equal in talent. I think Sunday's game will be close. It could come down to a last- minute field goal.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Vikings 23.
The last two times the Eagles played the Vikings, the Eagles defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. That must be the Eagles' formula for winning Sunday, because the Vikings are a talented — and desperate — team right now.
I like the Vikings' skill-position players and Kirk Cousins has been an efficient quarterback, although their running game needs Dalvin Cook healthy. The Eagles will try to keep the Vikings a one-dimensional offense and rely on their pass rush to pressure Cousins. My guess is that strategy works.
On offense, Carson Wentz gets a crack at the Vikings after missing last year's game. The Vikings defense is better than it has played — on paper, it should be one of the best in the NFL — although the Eagles will move the ball through the air. Look for Doug Pederson to motion receivers around the formation to try to find favorable matchups.
The Eagles won't have the type of performance that the Rams had last week — the over-under this week is only 46 — but they match up well and they're tough to beat at home. Look for them to advance to 3-2.
Prediction: Eagles 26, Vikings 20