Minnesota Vikings vs. Eagles: Scouting Report

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Prepare for the show down by examining how all the position groups match up.

The Minnesota Vikings have won the past two encounters with the Eagles, but that means almost nothing now as Philadelphia has made drastic changes since 2013. With a new-look offense, defense and coaching staff in place for the Eagles, study up on how the Minnesota Vikings position groups match up with Philadelphia.

Minnesota Vikings offensive line vs. Eagles defensive line

Despite the obvious weakness in the Minnesota Vikings offensive line, they are ranked 2nd in the league in least sacks allowed with eight. A big reason why has been Sam Bradford’s ability to make quick reads and passes in Norv Turner’s adjusted system. The Eagles, who are ranked 11th in sacks, won’t have an easy time reaching the intelligent Bradford despite featuring talent players like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.

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Still, the Eagles have the advantage in the trenches. Defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz has a proven track record in coaching talented defensive line. Running down the gut against defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is never a good idea. If Sam Bradford takes too long to throw, the Eagles have shown their ability to attack in pass rush. Even with the addition of Jake Long at left tackle, the Vikings will have to play fast and smart football behind the line of scrimmage.

Edge: Philadelphia Eagles

Minnesota Vikings receivers vs. Eagles secondary

The Philadelphia Eagles are ranked first in passing defense, but that mostly accounts for yards (1,037). The Eagles have four interceptions, only five touchdowns allowed and have limited opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 81.3.

Pro Football Focus had Packers cornerback Damarious Randall rated the best at his position heading into weak two. Stefon Diggs torched him for 182 yards and a touchdown. Adam Thielen, who announcers didn’t even recognize, ripped apart the top-rated Texans pass defense for 127 yards and a touchdown.

Even when the Vikings’ best receiver missed a game, they didn’t miss a step. With Sam Bradford playing flawless football, the Eagles secondary is unlikely to come away with a turnover. Great depth at the receiver positions will allow Bradford to continue finding the open man. All that being said, the Eagles held Ben Roethlisberger to just 257 yards and no touchdowns on 44 attempts. This clash is too hard to judge.

Edge: Tie

Minnesota Vikings rushing attack vs. Eagles front seven

Despite what the Madden prediction said, it is unlikely that the Vikings will be able to generate a run game after five weeks of failure. However, in their last game the Eagles allowed Washington running back Matt Jones to average 8.4 yards per attempt, gain 135 yards and score a touchdown. Jones is by no means a prototypical running back.

The Washington offensive line is much stronger than the Vikings’, but watching a below-average back tear up the ninth-ranked Eagles rushing defense was promising. Still, Minnesota is ranked at the bottom of the league in rushing. Unless Jake Long and Ronnie Hillman can make a difference, the Vikings will likely lose this battle.

Edge: Philadelphia Eagles

Sam Bradford vs. Carson Wentz

Two weeks ago was a throw-away game for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz when he played the Lions. Despite the loss and a late-game pick (which was 100 percent the receiver’s fault–perfect placement), Wentz played very well. Last week, on the other hand, Wentz threw for under 200 yards, completed 50 percent of his passes and didn’t find the end zone.

Wentz was Pro Football Focus’ top rated quarterback coming out of week two, but he hasn’t looked quite as sharp coming out of the bye–especially when dealing with the blitz. Still, Wentz is dangerous with his legs, throwing on the run and extending plays. If the Vikings don’t stay disciplined, he can find a way to burn them downfield with his speedy receivers.

Sam Bradford has the second-highest passer rating heading into this game with 109.8. That passer rating is a perfect reflection of Bradford’s ability to balance making good safe decisions with taking smart chances deep down the field. Above the shoulders, Bradford hasn’t cracked once this season. Below the shoulders, Bradford is delivering perfectly-placed balls with velocity at all three levels of the field.

Edge: Sam Bradford

Special Teams

Darren Sproles is one of the most dangerous and feared return men in the NFL. Still, he has nothing on Marcus Sherels this year. Sherels averages 16 yards per punt return and already has scored two game-breaking touchdowns this season. Sherels and the excellent punt unit around him change games on a weekly basis.

The Eagles have a slight edge in kicking this season, as Caleb Sturgis has missed one field goal and one extra point. Blair Walsh has missed three field goals and two extra points. Still, Walsh seldom allows returns on kick offs, and that is a valuable skill.

Jeff Locke has pinned 13 punts inside the 20–Donnie Jones has eight. Jeff Locke has been key in the Vikings’ field position battle, and Cordarrelle Patterson has emerged as a top gunner in the league. Patterson already has a forced fumble in punt coverage.

Edge: Minnesota Vikings

Eagles offensive line vs. Minnesota Vikings defensive line

The Philadelphia Eagles offensive line excells in movement. Pulling offensive linemen in the run game has been one of their best strengths. Still, the Eagles showed some holes last week against Washington. The Eagles have given up 12 sacks this season–5 in last week’s match up.

Washington was the first (succesful) team to gameplan for pressuring Wentz. Since the Vikings defensive line is the best in the NFC, pressuring Wentz with just the front four won’t be a problem. The Eagles are also missing their right tackle Lane Johnson. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, his replacement, has been liquid in pass protection. Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison will easily bring the heat.

Linval Joseph eats runs up the middle, and Brian Robison is excellent in playing contain on the outside. Though the Eagles have some strength on the offensive line, they are no match for the depth on the Minnesota Vikings defensive line.

Edge: Minnesota Vikings

Eagles receivers vs. Minnesota Vikings secondary

Pro Football Focus recently named the Minnesota Vikings the best secondary in the NFL, and it’s hardly arguable. Starting with the corner backs, the Vikings have five, FIVE, solid starting-level corners. Xavier Rhodes is having a career year, Trae Waynes has had monsterous impact, Terrance Newman continues to hold onto his job late in his 30s, Captain Munnerlyn can guard receiver and tight ends with physicality and McKensie Alexander has played well while resting the others.

Harrison Smith is a top-three safety, and opposing quarterbacks have gone out of their way to avoid him. As a bonus, linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are both excellent pass defenders.

One of the Eagles’ biggest weaknesses is their receivers. Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz can ball, but Nelson Agholor can’t get open and Doriel Green-Beckham can’t learn a playbook.

Edge: Minnesota Vikings

Eagles rushing attack vs. Minnesota Vikings front seven

The Minnesota Vikings are ranked second in rushing defense, and the Eagles are ranked 20th in rushing offense. Simply stated, the Eagles can’t run it up the middle due to Linval Joseph, and running to the outside will be hard with the Vikings’ athletic defensive ends and outside linebackers. Expect the Eagles to break a couple of long runs on passing downs but not much else.

Edge: Minnesota Vikings

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Of the eight categories, the Vikings took the edge on five and a half. Teams don’t win on paper, however–they win on the field. The Vikings will need to keep up the good work on defense and special teams while remaining mistake-free on offense to win this one.