There will be plenty of speculation and tension surrounding the Eagles week 7 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. The return of Sam Bradford will spark narratives across the country while the only undefeated team in the NFL look to cruise past the Eagles after their Bye-week. The Vikings are already considered by many as playoff bound, but this game has serious implications for the home team as well.
It’s easy to look at the 5-0 Vikings and still downplay their success. Three of their games have been at home while their opponents have a combined record of 14-15. Sam Bradford was dropped into the deep end when he finally took the field before the team then lost star running back Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL and even though their opponents haven’t all been as strong as the Packers, their sustained early success despite missing key parts of their team is a testament to the depth.
The Eagles on the other hand, are in a very different boat. Like the Vikings, Pederson’s team started off hot, racing to a 3-0 start before falling to two tough losses. Their opponents combined record so far? 5-13.
The Steelers may have been an incredibly tough opponent on paper..but the team still hadn’t won in Philadelphia for decades and have since fallen to a similarly surprising loss to the Miami Dolphins.
After that impressive win against one of the most dangerous teams in the league however, the Eagles fell to the Lions, who are one of the most underrated teams in the NFL and the Redskins..who have won all four of their last four games and out of all Offensive drives this season, have ended just SIX in a three and out.
An abundance of questionable penalties along with playcalling that has been just as confusing..the Eagles now have to battle a Norv Turner Offense with Sam Bradford at the helm and a ruthless pass rush without Lane Johnson.
If there is one game this season that will either see the Eagles emerge as a legitimate playoff contender or paint a realistic picture of what is attainable in 2016, it’s this one. The odds on paper may be heavily stacked against them as they face a team very much looking to make the most of their current bubble.
The Vikings are built to “win now”..and it shows. The Eagles on the other hand..are simply finding themselves on the early stages of a long road designed for development. Discovering what works and what doesn’t, experimenting with rotation at various positions, new formations and expanding the playbook while ensuring the stage never gets too big for Carson Wentz.
This is a very young Eagles team, in terms of experience and familiarity from the top down. A rookie Head Coach is guiding his rookie QB through the storm as Jim Schwartz seeks to wreak havoc once again as a Defensive Coordinator. But in a matchup that is just as possible to reoccur with an NFC Championship on the line one day in the future, do the Eagles have what it takes to hang with the big guys?
The Eagles don’t have to win to prove their legitimacy..but as the NFC East heats up with all four teams having realistic chances of snatching the crown, these are the games that will simply separate the men from the boys.
Sam Bradford knows the Eagles inside out..and large chunks of the playbook. Pederson will be gameplanning against a quarterback who knows not just the team’s strengths and weaknesses..but individual flaws and areas to target. It’s that level of intricacy that will make this Pederson’s toughest coaching challenge yet..but one that if he passes, will paint a very bright immediate future for this Eagles team, regardless of the flaws they may have.
Sam Bradford’s return will steal the spotlight on Sunday..and the showdown between Bradford and his Eagles replacement Carson Wentz will be fascinating on so many levels..but none more so than realistically seeing where on the scale of contender to pretender the Eagles lie.