What a difference a couple of weeks can make. Just two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were looking at a very difficult situation. They were travelling to Wisconsin to play an undefeated Green Bay Packers and were already trailing the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. Fast forward a fortnight and there’s been a shift in momentum within the NFC. Could this be the week that confirms that the Eagles are back on track to being one of the favourites within the NFC?
The Eagles are staring down an extremely difficult three-week stretch, playing against their next three opponents away from home. The first of these challenges is a familiar foe in the Minnesota Vikings. How the Eagles players will long for the same result as the 2017 NFC Conference game.
Malcolm Jenkins has confirmed that the Eagles will be focusing on the game ahead and not thinking back to their previous success while in Minnesota.
“Hell no. We’re trying to win this game. It’s not a time to reminisce and be sentimental and all that stuff. It’s time to get ready to play.’’
During last week’s game against the New York Jets, the Eagles defense woke up with a bang. They became the only defense in NFL history to record 10 sacks and have two takeaways returned for touchdowns, the highlight of which was new addition Orlando Scandrick literally stealing the ball out of Luke Falk’s hands and running it in for a score.
If the Eagles want to win this week, they will be expected to put as much pressure on Kirk Cousins as they can. Cousins is one of the more hot-and-cold quarterbacks in the league. The Eagles need to put him under pressure early and not allow Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen to get into a groove in the secondary. I want to see the two wide receivers getting frustrated with their signal caller, as I believe stopping them will be what clinches a victory for the Eagles.
As for the offense, when looking at the Week 5 scoreline of 31-6, you could easily believe that the offense had a great game statistically. But in a game where the defense dominated, the playmakers seemed to take more of a management role, minimising mistakes and really not looking to push the limits.
Carson Wentz protected the ball and did not throw an interception again, and the offensive line only gave up one sack. This will be vital against Minnesota this week. Keep Wentz clean in the pocket and he will find the open man. The third-year quarterback is looking close to his MVP self in the way he is protecting the ball and how he produces weekly magic tricks in escaping sacks and pushing the ball downfield.
Another interesting wrinkle in this game will be the rushing offense of the Vikings and the rush defense for the Eagles. Currently, the Vikings rank third in the NFL in rushing with break-out star Dalvin Cook. Earlier this week, Coach Doug Pederson expressed his admiration for Cook and said if he had fallen an extra two slots in the draft, the Eagles were contemplating drafting Cook.
Instead, the Vikings traded ahead of the Eagles and selected Cook with the 41st pick. Cook has amassed 542 yards rushing already this year averaging 5.9 yards per rush. He has looked incredibly shifty and has showed excellent bursts when hitting the holes in the defensive line. But this could be his most difficult outing yet: the Eagles rush defense ranks number one in the league, only surrendering an average 61 yards rushing a game. This will be intriguing to see if the Eagles’ stout defensive line can stop Cook in his tracks and swing the momentum the Eagles’ way.
I think the Eagles will be pushing to continue their run of form and start their three-game road stretch off positively. The offense will need to play like they did against the Green Bay Packers and the defense will be feeling supremely confident in pushing for even more sacks this week.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Vikings 24
Feature Picture – Credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images