The unbeaten Minnesota Vikings (5-0) hit the road to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) this Sunday. The Eagles, once among the ranks of the undefeated, return home after losing two straight road games. They face their toughest test of the season in hoping to avoid losing three straight at the hands of arguably the best team in the league.
Minnesota Vikings Week Seven Keys to Victory
Open the Rushing Flood Gates
Minnesota’s 30th ranked rushing attack isn’t exactly rolling into Philly. The team has failed to break 100-yard rushing barrier this season although they did put up 96 yards against the Houston Texans, a top tier rushing defense.
The Eagles have the 17th ranked rushing defense and should prove an easier test for an improving, yet still suspect, Viking offensive line. Philadelphia gives up 4.8 yards per rushing attempt, and only two teams, the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, give up a higher average. Expect the tandem of Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata to finally break the century mark. Don’t be surprised if C.J. Spiller and Cordarrelle Patterson add a wrinkle or two. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is well-aware that without the threat of an effective running game, the Vikings will likely struggle against the Eagles’ fourth ranked passing defense.
Stuff the Run
Two weeks ago, the Vikings faced a Texans’ team who ranked in the top ten in rushing yards and rushing attempts. The Philadelphia Eagles bring that same resume. The similarity does not stop there. Like the Texans, the Eagles rank in the bottom half of the league in yards per carry. The Texans only mustered 59 rushing yards against the “Purple Reign” defense.
If the Vikings can hold another top running team to a similar output, they will force another opponent out of its comfort zone, making them one dimensional. Minnesota’s defense currently ranks seventh in yards per rushing attempt. The probability for the Minnesota’s fifth ranked run defense stopping the Eagles rushing attack is high. This puts the Eagles’ hopes of avoiding a .500 record squarely on their 23-year old rookie quarterback.
Confuse the Rookie Signal Caller
Carson Wentz experienced something last Sunday that hasn’t happened to him since his junior year in high school: a two-game losing streak. Shockingly, this took until Wentz’s fifth NFL start. During a small sample size of games, Wentz has proven better than many of the leagues mediocre passers. That said, he has yet to face a defense like the one he will see on Sunday. Minnesota confuses the league’s best quarterbacks and makes mediocre ones, like Brock Oswieler and Marcus Mariota, look positively dreadful.
The former FCS quarterback and the 26th ranked passing offense of the Eagles better pack a lunch because it’s bound to be a long day at the office. Thus far in 2016, opposing offenses have been held to an average of 12.6 points per game. Minnesota’s second ranked defense leads the league in sacks, yards per passing attempt allowed, and takeaways. The “Zim Reapers” have held their opponents to 17 or fewer points in the last nine games, the majority of those against MVP-caliber passers. Look for that streak to move to ten games as the Vikings defense leaves Eagles fans asking the same question other fan bases have asked after playing Minnesota: “What is wrong with our quarterback and/or offense?”
The Eagles and Wentz surprised the entire NFL by going 3-0 to start the season. Four weeks is about the amount of time it takes for defenses to adjust and it appears that is exactly what has happened to Philadelphia. The seasoned Minnesota coaching staff have had two weeks to prepare for their next opponent. Despite playing on the road, expect the Vikings to come out of Philadelphia with their most lopsided win of the season.