Know your Eagles enemy: The Minnesota Vikings

January 21st, 2018:  the Eagles faced the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game as three point underdogs.

January 22nd, 2018: Eagles fans are enjoying a Victory Monday after a 38-7 beat down from the Eagles to the Vikings.

October 13th, 2019: the Eagles will face the Vikings as three point underdogs.

October 14th, 2019: ????

The 3-2 Eagles travel to the 3-2 Vikings on Sunday to visit the site of some game called Super Bowl 52.

Before we dive into some of the game, let’s look at their offseason:

Key additions: center Garrett Bradbury (first round draft pick), guard Josh Kline (free agency – Titans), tight end Irv Smith Jr. (second-round draft pick)

Key departures: defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (free agency – Browns), running back Latavius Murray (free agency – Saints), safety Andrew Sendejo (free agency – Eagles), offensive tackle Mike Remmers (free agency – Giants), guard Tom Compton (free agency – Jets), defensive tackle Tom Johnson (free agency)

Coming off a ten sack performance against the Jets, the Eagles’ defensive line will have a chance to replicate that dominance against an underwhelming pass blocking line. The Vikings’ offensive line is currently ranked 24th in the league in pass blocking, according to Football Outsiders. They’ve allowed a sack on 8.6% of Kirk Cousins’ drop backs, also 24th in the league. 

There’s a common belief that when sacks come, they come in bunches, and with the Eagles’ defensive line coming off one of the best sack performances in recent memory, the “bunches” could come again on Sunday.  However, we haven’t touched on the run blocking yet.

New man on the Minnesota Vikings

If there’s an opportunity to drop a Lizzo reference, you do it. Right?

New offensive advisor/assistant head coach Gary Kubiak is that new man and he has rejuvenated the Vikings’ rushing attack. They are currently averaging 166 rushing yards per game, with Dalvin Cook averaging 108.4 of those yards. It will be the immovable force against the unstoppable object when the Eagles’ number one rushing defense faces off against the league’s second highest rusher in Cook. 

However, with that large chunk of rushing yards put forth by the Vikings, come the teams that they have done it against:

  • Atlanta (104.1 yards allowed): 172 rushing yards
  • Green Bay (112.1 yards allowed): 198 rushing yards
  • Oakland (108.9 yards allowed): 211 rushing yards
  • Chicago (108.1 yards allowed): 40 rushing yards
  • New York Giants (120.8 yards allowed): 211 rushing yards

As you can see, they haven’t faced the toughest test against the rush.  Outside of the Bears game, Dalvin Cook has been able to slice up opposing defensive lines. He’ll find that the Eagles aren’t likely to be sliced apart, so the Vikings will have to turn to a former Eagles’ enemy to lead them in their offensive assault.

The Guaranteed Man

Kirk Cousins. The $84 million guaranteed man. The man who is averaging 208.2 passing yards per game (29th in the league) and only has five touchdowns and two interceptions. Not game changing numbers by any means, but he does have a lot of success against the Eagles.

In eight games against the Eagles, Cousins is 5-3 and averages 302.9 passing yards per game with 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions. His first game against the Eagles while a member of the Vikings came last season in 23-21 win over the Eagles. He had 301 yards and one touchdown in that game.

He was only sacked once in that game, so the Eagles defensive line will have to get in Cousins’ face and not bite on the play action. When Cousins’ uses play action over 40% of the time this season, his game grade, according to ProFootballFocus, is over 80.0. 

Cousins also has been one of the luckier quarterbacks in terms of yards gained. According to ProFootballFocus, 55.2% of his yards have come after the catch, second highest in the NFL among quarterbacks with over 100 passing attempts. If the Eagles’ cornerbacks can keep the receivers in front of them and tackle upon catch, then Cousins will struggle to find success.

For a brief history between the two teams and a prediction on Sunday’s game, check out the next page!

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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