Readers of the site expect the Minnesota Vikings to win on Sunday, and for good reason; the Vikings have won five straight and are favored in every game through the end of the season, per Five Thirty-Eight.
Obviously, opinions on Vikings Territory are skewed in favor of Mike Zimmer’s team, but that may change this morning. In continuing with tradition, we’ve invited Brent Cohen of Eagles Rewind to answer a few questions for “Know They Enemy.”
As the creator and editor of Eagles Rewind, Brent’s a proponent of objective analysis when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s also got his JD/MBA from Wharton Law School, so we can fully expect a convincing argument for an Eagles victory on Sunday. Check out Brent’s answers after the jump!
Rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled against the Redskins last week. At least offensively, is he your biggest concern as the Eagles prepare for Minnesota’s league-leading pass rush?
Short answer: Yes.
The fact of the matter is that the Eagles, under Chip Kelly, were grossly negligent in maintaining the offensive line. That’s coming back to hurt them in a big way this year. Vaitai struggled mightily, but he’s a 5th round rookie and was matched up against a pro bowl DE. Expecting anything more was foolish.
Still, it is what it is, and that is the biggest headache heading into this week’s game. However, it’s also important to note that the rest of the OL has struggled a bit as well. Jason Kelce has fallen off over the past two years and Jason Peters, while still a quality OT, isn’t close to his former All-Pro level self. Expect a lot of multiple TE looks and RB chips to help the OL out, along with some bootlegs and slants to help Wentz get the ball out more quickly. Of course, they did a lot of that last week and it didn’t help much.
Carson Wentz has exceeded expectations this year but was relatively ineffective last week. Were we too quick to jump on the Wentz Hype Train, or are these struggles expected from a rookie quarterback?
Wentz actually played pretty well last week, all things considered. He made a few mistakes in handling the pressure (held the ball too long a couple of times and failed to step up in the pocket on several others). However, he made a couple of really impressive throws/plays and was let down (again) by his WRs. A late Zach Ertz drop and a phantom block-in-the-back penalty on a long Green-Beckham completion come to mind immediately.
Overall, the kid has looked about as impressive as I’ve ever seen a rookie QB look. In particular, his deep passing ability is really strong, and he’s shown the willingness to throw them anytime an opportunity might be there. He’s already the best player on the offense. The hype is deserved.
Much has been made of Jim Schwartz’s defensive renaissance in Philadelphia. What makes this Eagles defense so dangerous?
The defense IS dangerous, but depth is a huge problem. Unfortunately (for the Eagles), Bennie Logan looks like he’ll miss Sunday’s game. He’s quietly become an upper-echelon DT, particularly against the run. He and Fletcher Cox form the keystone of the defense, and without him, things will be easier for the Vikings.
Elsewhere, Malcolm Jenkins has been playing extremely well, aside from a bad game last week. He and Cox set the pace, and the rest of the defense follows. Brandon Graham has developed into a really strong pass rusher as well. On the flip side, Connor Barwin hasn’t transitioned well to a 4-3 DE (Eagles played a 3-4 last year with him at OLB) and has been a weakness thus far this season.
What, in your mind, has been the biggest offensive improvement since Doug Pederson took over for Chip Kelly?
Honestly, the biggest offensive improvement is Wentz. I know that’s tough to hear with Bradford playing so well, but compared to his play last season (and the other Eagles QBs), the improvement at QB is the biggest difference this year to last. Additionally, Doug appears to be more willing to fit his scheme/gameplan to the talent on the team, as opposed to Chip, whose scheme came first and sometimes forced square pegs into round holes. Because of that, guys like Nelson Agholor have actually been able to contribute this year (vs. being completely invisible last year). But big picture, it’s the QB, and how Doug has handled him.
And finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
I think the game will be close (and certainly closer than I assume most Vikings fans think). The Eagles have played 5 games and looked like a GREAT team in 4 of them. The loss to the Lions was as fluky as it gets, with a penalty differential of more than 100 yards. Additionally, in two home games this year, the Eagles have absolutely destroyed the Steelers and the Browns.
Generally speaking, the Eagles aren’t nearly as bad as they looked last week. They also aren’t as good as they looked against the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Vikings are dominating opponents on defense, but that is also masking a middling offense. Despite Bradford’s improved play, the team is averaging fewer than 24 points per game.
I think Vikings by a FG sounds about right, but be forewarned, the Eagles have big play potential behind Wentz, and I wouldn’t be too confident about Bradford putting up more than 20ish points on the road against this defense, even without Bennie Logan.