With the NFL season underway, this is the week for every fan’s overreaction and underreaction about their team and the rest of the league. The Philadelphia Eagles started their season off with a hard-fought win against the New England Patriots. The final score was 25-20, as the Eagles defense was forced to make a stand in their own territory to end the game. However, many felt that the Eagles performance was unimpressive and very lackluster compared to expectations. Some have begun to question the new offensive coordinator, Brian Johnson, as well as the Eagles secondary, for not meeting the expectations set from the Super Bowl run last year.
Both Johnson and the Eagles secondary will have a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of critics in Week 2 with the Minnesota Vikings traveling to Philadelphia for Thursday Night Football. The Vikings are coming off a surprising loss in Week 1 at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Vikings did some positive things in the season opener but were largely disappointed with three crucial turnovers in the game. The meeting last year between these two teams resulted in the Eagles stomping the Vikings, and only one thing would prevent a similar outcome: Justin Jefferson.
Thursday Night Football: Vikings vs Eagles Picks
Justin Jefferson vs the Eagles Secondary
Last week the Eagles secondary had some ups and downs throughout the game. There were some highlights with Darius Slay’s pick-six and good moments from James Bradberry and Reed Blankenship. However, there were some bad moments from everyone excluding Darius Slay, and especially the Eagles linebackers who felt lost at times in coverage. The Patriots utilized a lot of screens and passes out in space to take away the threat of the Eagles defensive line. In the second half, the defense and new defensive coordinator Sean Desai looked a little lost in zone coverage keeping up with the Patriots attack. The Eagles did not play a whole lot of man coverage but did get beat a few times when they did. On Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne’s second touchdown, he was able to beat James Bradberry on a post route in man-to-man coverage.
As for the Vikings, while their result and the turnovers were disappointing, their passing offense was still very impressive. Quarterback Kirk Cousins finished 33/44 with 344 passing yards, two touchdowns, and a bad interception in the red zone. Albeit with three turnovers, Cousins was on the money for the majority of the day, rifling the ball with perfect accuracy and good decision-making. In the first half, Justin Jefferson took over the game with seven receptions for 138 yards. However, the Buccaneers adjusted in the second half and were able to stop Justin Jefferson completely. Which in turn, helped the Buccaneers put a halt to the entire Vikings offense for the most part.
Justin Jefferson today:
Only 12 second half yards… pic.twitter.com/rF5LGWZ6VC
— MNMuse (@statmusewolves) September 10, 2023
How to Stop the Vikings Pass Game
The Vikings pass game is well-schemed and able to give many teams problems. Not only for his direct contributions, but Jefferson’s presence is what makes this offense work so well. For example, on the 39-yard touchdown to Jordan Addison, both Addison and Jefferson were lined up on the left side with Jefferson in the slot. Jefferson ran a deep out that drew the attention of Buccaneers safety Ryan Neal and made him step up toward Jefferson. This allowed Addison to run right behind Neal on a post route and create the Vikings first touchdown. The Vikings scheme does well against zone coverage where the safety must make choices between giving extra attention to Jefferson or staying with their assignments. However, the times that the Buccaneers decided to play man coverage, the receivers outside of Jefferson struggled to get separation, which may be the key for the Eagles on Thursday.
🎥 #Vikings rookie WR Jordan Addison with an AMAZING TD
The #USC product looks great
— SCOUTD (@scoutdnfl) September 10, 2023
The Eagles Defensive Line May End the Game Quickly
While a lot of focus will be on the Eagles secondary and how they perform, their job may be incredibly easy based on how dominant the Eagles defensive line will be. It was apparent watching the Vikings game that they had a serious interior offensive line problem, where Kirk Cousins was constantly under duress. Their right guard, Ed Ingram had an especially rough day, and there is no doubt the Eagles will look as often as they can to line up Jalen Carter across from him. The best way to stop a passing attack is by getting after the quarterback, and that is the Eagles biggest strength. If the Eagles can get tons of pressure while only rushing four defenders, they should have little issue stopping the Vikings passing attack or at least taking away any explosive passes down the field.
Final Thoughts Vikings vs Eagles Picks
Eagles win, 27-13
At the end of the day, Jefferson will make some plays, but the Eagles match up great with the Vikings and it will be tough for them to solely rely on the Cousins-Jefferson connection. Even with players banged up such as Reed Blankenship, Fletcher Cox, and James Bradberry, do not expect the Vikings to light up the scoreboard.
The Vikings defense played solidly against the Buccaneers and the Eagles are still trying to find their way offensively with a new offensive coordinator and a revolving situation at running back. So, the score might be closer than it may feel, but the Vikings defense does have some trouble covering receivers down the field. The Eagles offense will likely create more explosive plays this week that seal the deal for a comfortable Eagles victory.
Other Eagles vs Vikings Picks (Current Record: 1-2): (All Lines via MetaBet)
A.J. Brown Over 73.5 receiving yards
A.J. Brown Anytime TD scorer
Jalen Hurts Over 1.5 passing touchdowns
Main Photo: Eric Canha – USA Today Sports