After beating the Detroit Lions 38-35, the Philadelphia Eagles will look to stay tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East when they take on the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
- Location: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA
- Time: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Channel: ABC
- Spread: PHI -2.5
- Over/Under: 50 points
- Moneyline odds: PHI -135, MIN +115
After beating the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings are looking to establish their superiority in the NFC. This game will notably feature two of the best receivers in the league in A.J. Brown and Justin Jefferson, but what are the other keys to this game?
The Battle in the Trenches
After dealing with offensive line issues for years, the Eagles come into this game with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They had to cycle through 14 different starting combinations last year, so health has never been their friend, but talent sure is.
While center Jason Kelce arguably provides the solid foundation for this unit, right tackle Lane Johnson may be its best player. He hasn’t given up quarterback pressure since Week 15 of the 2021 season and forms a tremendous bookend with left tackle Jordan Mailata. The duo help propel a unit that blocked for a league-high 2,715 rushing yards last season and helped both Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders rank top-five in yards before contact.
However, this line will be tested. Not only because guard Brandon Brooks retired but because this Minnesota defensive line is the strength of the defense. Danielle Hunter is back from injury, and he drives this unit with his fearsome pass rush. Minnesota generated a 33.5% pressure rate with Hunter on the field last season, which is among the best in the league.
Hunter had one of the team’s four sacks last week against the Packers, but another one was notched by Za’Darius Smith, who is another strong lineman who has battled injuries of late. With Hunter and Smith both healthy and sharing space with Jordan Hicks, who had 14 tackles and a sack last Sunday, this defensive line should be priority number one for the Philadelphia offense.
On the other hand, Philadelphia also features a strong pass rush, while Minnesota has an inferior offensive line in comparison, so the pass rush on both sides will be crucial to determining the outcome of this game.
The Minnesota New-Look Offense
Another crucial factor will be seeing how Kirk Cousins continues to lead this new Minnesota offense under first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell. When O’Connell came over from the Rams, the expectation was that he would use a lot of 11-personnel sets (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers). Last year, the Rams ran 11-personnel on 86% of snaps, while the Vikings ran it on 47%, choosing instead to use two running back formations a lot.
In Week 1 against the Packers, we saw a lot of 11-personnel from the Vikings with Adam Thielen on the field for 95% of snaps, Justin Jefferson on the field for 92% of snaps, and KJ Osborn on the field for 67% of snaps. This allows Kevin O’Connell to spread out the defense more and open up avenues for Jefferson to get open more frequently, as we saw when he put up nine matches for 184 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers in Week 1.
There’s also an interesting narrative at play here since the Eagles were long-rumored to be drafting Justin Jefferson back in 2020. However, when they were on the clock they instead elected to draft TCU receiver Jalen Reagor. The Vikings took Jefferson will the very next pick. Reagor would go on to be a bust in Philadelphia and then was actually traded to Minnesota this offseason to play alongside Jefferson. They could both be looking to make a statement against Philadelphia tonight.
However, the Eagles’ secondary held the Lions to 215 yards through the air last week, so their zone-heavy scheme may have the answer to stop the Vikings’ passing attack; however, the Lions also ran for 181 yards on 6.5 yards per carry, so the Vikings could easily choose to ride Dalvin Cook if the Eagles place most of their focus on Jefferson.
Can The Eagles Run All Over Minnesota?
We mentioned that the Vikings defensive line is the strength of this team, but the linebacking corps leaves something to be desired, and the Packers, who were not full strength on their offensive line in Week 1 were still able to run for 111 yards on 6.2 yards. The Eagles will bring in an arguably more powerful rushing attack, so that could be a concern for Minnesota.
Behind Sanders, Hurts, and Kenneth Gainwell, the Eagles ran for 216 yards and four touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry against the Lions. Sanders also looked fully healthy after battling injuries last year. His explosiveness makes the run-pass-option plays with Hurts that much more dangerous and will test the Minnesota defense’s ability to diagnose and make the right read. Plus, if the Eagles are able to grind the game out on the ground, it helps to keep Jefferson and Cook and the Vikings offense off the field.
We covered Jalen Hurts’ rushing prowess above, so I think over 8.5 rushing attempts and over 50.5 rushing yards both seem like pretty feasible plays given how I believe Philadelphia attacks Minnesota tonight.
I will admit to not being alone on this KJ Osborn touchdown prop; you can find a lot of people touting it. The reason for that is that Avonte Maddox is not a good cornerback, and he is the Eagles’ main nickel corner. We discussed that the Vikings use three wide receivers m0re now than before, and Osborn operates primarily out of the slot, which makes me think he could have a solid game.