Minnesota Vikings: Comparing the NFC’s top-two teams

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Quarterback Carson Wentz
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Quarterback Carson Wentz /
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Eagles: Carson Wentz

Vikings: Case Keenum

Lately, Case Keenum has carried the load for the Vikings at quarterback. As much controversy as there’s been over his starting status, I’d be very surprised to Minnesota turn away from the 29-year-old. So far, he’s thrown for 1,610 yards on 63.9 percent passing along with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Respectable totals for a backup quarterback.

That being said, the clear advantage goes to the Eagles at this position. Carson Wentz is arguably the top young quarterback in this league and he’s stepped up in a huge way this season. In eight starts, he’s third in the league in passing with 2,063 yards. He also ranks top-10 in passer rating, touchdowns and yards per attempt. In the end, I’m not sure it matters who the Vikings have manning the position, no one comes close to the type of player the Eagles’ franchise quarterback is.

Advantage: Eagles 

Running back

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount

Vikings: Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray

I went back and forth on this for awhile, but came across this fine assessment of the Eagles’ rushing attack from The Inquirer’s Paul Domowitch.

"The Eagles are fifth in the league in rushing, but that number is deceiving. It’s built mainly on the 407 yards the Eagles ran for in Week 3 and 4 wins over the Giants and Chargers. Since then, they’ve averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Blount is averaging 4.7 yards per carry overall, but just 2.6 in the last two games, which coincides with the loss of Peters."

Basically, Philadelphia’s fifth-ranked rushing offense is weighted by a couple of outstanding performances early in the season. Now, they recently traded for a new starting running back in Jay Ajayi. But, I’m not convinced that’s going to instantly bring more success to their run game. In fact, the third-year back was only rushing for 3.4 yards per carry for 465 yards with the Miami Dolphins in seven games. To Ajayi’s credit, it was behind a poor offensive line, although the Eagles just lost Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.

On the other hand, the Vikings have rushed the ball effectively all season long. After Dalvin Cook went out with a torn ACL, Jerick McKinnon has flourished, rushing for 261 yards, while adding 163 yards receiving. McKinnon’s counterpart in the backfield, Latavius Murray, has started off slow in an expanded role, but he’s been able to keep the “Jet” fresh by taking some of the load.

Altogether, I’m giving the Vikings the edge. In time, the Eagles could be considered the better rushing team, but Minnesota has been more consistent thus far. Additionally, McKinnon is a weapon in the pass game, something Ajayi and Blount are not.

Advantage: Vikings

Wide receiver

Eagles: Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell

Overall, this is super clear. Vikings, hands down. With Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Vikings have two no. 1 receivers capable of making plays at any moment. The only big concern when it comes to Minnesota’s receiving unit is Diggs’ health problems, but even when those occur, Thielen tends to step up even more. In fact, he leads the NFC in receiving with 627 yards and only trails Antonio Brown for first in the NFL.

On the other hand, the Eagles’ receivers are capable of making big plays too. Third-year man Nelson Agholor has impressed mightily, already producing career-high in yards (392) and touchdowns (5). In addition, Alshon Jeffrey gives them a big-bodied receiver on the outside capable of being a red zone threat at all times. Even so, they aren’t near the type of receivers Diggs and Thielen are, giving the Vikings a decisive edge.

Advantage: Vikings

Tight end

Eagles: Zach Ertz

Vikings: Kyle Rudolph

Both teams have great starting tight ends. Kyle Rudolph has been a Pro Bowl player and had a career-year in 2016 with 83 catches for 840 yards along with seven touchdowns. Yet, he had a slow start to this season resulting in 32 catches for 271 yards at the halfway point. In turn, he’s far below last year’s pace.

As for the Eagles, Zach Ertz has established himself as Wentz’s go-to option in the pass game. In my view, he’s more than just that, he’s the best tight end in football. As matter of fact, he leads tight ends in catches with 43, which is tied for eighth overall among pass catchers. He’s also a huge red zone threat, catching six touchdowns in eight games.

While there was a time Rudolph and Ertz were on the same level, Philadelphia’s starting tight end has taken it to the next level, whereas Rudolph hasn’t. Advantage, Eagles.

Advantage: Eagles

Offensive line

Eagles: LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, LG Stefen Wisniewski, C Jason Kelce, RG Brandon Brooks, RT Lane Johnson

Vikings: LT Riley Reiff, LG Nick Easton, C Pat Elflein, RG Joe Berger, RT Mike Remmers

The loss of Jason Peters on the offensive line creates a huge hole for the Eagles. Additionally, they’ve allowed 22 sacks compared to the Vikings’ 10 and have struggled making holes in the run game as of late.

In the case of the Vikings, fortunes have been far better when it comes to the offensive line this season. Free agent acquisition Riley Reiff hasn’t allowed a sack on the blind side, while fellow acquisition Mike Remmers is the fifteenth-ranked tackle according to Pro Football Focus. Rookie Pat Elflein has also stepped up to fill the all-important center position. In all, the Vikings get the edge on the line.

Advantage: Vikings 

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Truly, comparing the offenses as a whole is tougher than breaking them a part individually, but I have to give the advantage to the Eagles. Simply, the quarterback position is the difference maker. While the Vikings may have greater playmakers as well as a greater offensive line, Wentz is the type of player that makes others around him better. That being said, it’s close. Overall, the Eagles have the third-ranked offense compared to Minnesota’s fifth ranked offense, so the Vikings definitely are capable of doing damage, even with a lesser quarterback.

Advantage: Eagles