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The Vikings had the bye week to rest and relax and will now travel to Philadelphia for a challenging game against a promising Eagles team. Daniel House previews the matchup and provides his keys to victory.
Updated: October 22nd, 2016 6:42pm
Updated: October 22nd, 2016 6:42pm
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
The Vikings had plenty of rest and relaxation during the bye week, but now it is time to get back to business. They will be tested as they travel to Philadelphia for a matchup with the 3-2 Eagles. Philly won their first three games, but have dropped back-to-back contests. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford will be making a return to his former team and will square off with rookie Carson Wentz.
Wentz hasn’t made many mistakes and has shown his skill-set will translate to the next level. Mike Zimmer will dial up plenty of packages to get him frustrated, especially with the opportunistic defensive unit he has at his disposal. The Eagles are a top-ten team running the football and their defense is quietly performing well too.
Minnesota will need to run the football well and pass against an Eagles secondary that is surprisingly rather stringy.
I provide several keys to a Vikings victory, along with some interesting stats the Eagles have posted this season.
Running the football
The Vikings have not had success running the football through the first five games. They have the third-fewest yards per game average (77.8) and being effective on the ground has been practically impossible. There haven’t been sufficient running lanes provided by the offensive line and their play has been very inconsistent. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon can only create so much yardage on their own. Mike Zimmer said they would look at ways to improve this during the bye week. The Vikings offense is at its best when there is a level of balance. Teams can play against the pass when there is no threat for the running game to be successful. The next step towards Minnesota becoming a bigger threat in the league is for the running game to take off. Moving forward into the next portion of the season, this will be the biggest area necessary for improvement within the Vikings offense. Bennie Logan is out in the interior of the defensive line for the Eagles and they already have allowed a 104.6 yards per game average on the ground. This is the perfect game for the Minnesota rushing attack to get back on track.
Pressuring Wentz into mistakes
The Eagles offensive line has allowed eight sacks over the last two games. Rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been struggling and surrendered 2.5 of the Eagles’ five allowed sacks last week. Brian Robison could have a monster game against Vaitai. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz hasn’t made mistakes and has thrown just one interception in his first five starts. He has performed well and the Eagles are averaging a modest 237.2 yards per game through the air. Mike Zimmer had two weeks to dial up a massive amount of packages to scheme for a rookie quarterback. The goal will be to pressure Wentz and force him into mistakes. If the Philadelphia offense can’t get into a rhythm, they will struggle to handle a defense with a dominating edge like the Vikings have.
Jake Long at left tackle?
All week, Mike Zimmer has been asked whether recently signed left tackle Jake Long will play Sunday against the Eagles. He said he might, but I would be pretty shocked if he didn't. The Vikings wouldn't have signed Long if they didn't have the expectation for him to play. With T.J. Clemmings struggling on the left side and Andre Smith out for the season at right tackle, Long is a stop-gap option who will hopefully provide serviceable play on the offensive line. The Eagles have tallied the sixth-most sacks (14) and the offensive line must do everything they can to keep Sam Bradford protected. When he has time to throw and find his weapons, he is at his best. The Vikings can’t afford to lose Bradford to injury and if he continually is hit, the chances of it happening go way up. If Long can play well, this signing might provide an upgrade to a Vikings offensive line that already was lackluster.
Stopping the Philadelphia running attack
Quietly, Philadelphia has been running the football well this season. The Eagles have the eighth-most yards per game average (113.6) on the ground. The combination of Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles has piled up some yardage. Sproles is such a threat in the passing game and is a dual-threat weapon the Vikings should monitor. The Eagles will run screens and check downs to Sproles and he does a great job of creating yards after the catch. Ryan Mathews has a history of fumbling problems and he's had more this year. In fact, his lone fumble of the season cost the Eagles a victory over the Lions a couple weeks ago. The Vikings have improved their defense at stopping the run, but any lapse in tackling will be exposed this week. They need to create turnovers and be disruptive against the Philadelphia offense.
Passing against the Eagles secondary
The Philadelphia secondary has allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per game average (207). When I watched tape on the Eagles, I was very impressed with Malcolm Jenkins in the backend of their defense. He had an interception last week and has been a lock down player in their secondary. Stefon Diggs might not play again and the other wide receivers will have to step up and get open. Sam Bradford will be tested against a good secondary and having time to throw, along with open receivers will be critical. Overall, this game will be a quality test for a Vikings offense that needs to take the next step. Starting the next half of the season on the right foot will help the Vikings build momentum heading into an easier portion of their schedule.