The quarterbacks are different, one team’s offensive coordinator is the other’s old quarterbacks coach, neither team is above .500, and it’s about 40 degrees warmer.
Yes, things have already changed from last January’s NFC Championship Game, but Sunday’s Vikings-Eagles matchup is still being billed as one of the top games of the week as both teams look to get back on track after disappointing Week 4 results.
Let’s look more closely at some of the storylines.
VIKINGS OFFENSE vs EAGLES DEFENSE
The Vikings’ run game has been “non-existent,” according to running back Latavius Murray, which holds true when you look at the numbers. Minnesota has the fewest carries attempted and fewest yards gained this season. Conversely, the Eagles lead the league in rush defense, making for an unfavorable matchup.
Oh, and the Vikings won’t have Dalvin Cook (hamstring).
Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby will have their hands full with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The Eagles have given up a 100-yard pass catcher in three of four games this season, including 161 yards to Corey Davis in their overtime loss last week. Thielen is working on a historic start with four consecutive 100-yard outputs. As was the case against the Rams, Minnesota’s best chance to move the ball may be through the air.
Ultimately, the game may hinge on the Vikings’ ability to stop the Eagles’ front four. Minnesota’s offensive line has allowed 81 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus’s Sam Monson, putting them on pace for over 300 on the season — the highest total in a decade. Fletcher Cox has a team-high eight quarterback hits and three sacks and will give Pat Elflein and the two guards another significant challenge on the interior.
VIKINGS DEFENSE vs EAGLES OFFENSE
The Vikings created four turnovers in their first game of the season, but haven’t forced one since. Do you believe in fumble luck? In their four games this year, the Vikings defense has failed to recover eight of nine fumbles, which Mike Zimmer said was an area of emphasis this week.
Creating plays on defense may be the key to beating Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Wentz is 13-2 at home as the Eagles starter.
For the Vikings, handling play-action will again be paramount. Jared Goff burned them badly last Thursday in Los Angeles, particularly on second down, where he put together eight play-action completions that went for double-digit yardage.
The Vikings won’t have Trae Waynes (concussion), so Philadelphia’s Nelson Agholor may be a preferred target for Wentz, and former Bear Alshon Jeffery has always been a Vikings killer. Minnesota’s struggling pass rush will also be without Tashawn Bower, in addition to Everson Griffen. Zimmer said it’s possible the Vikings will use linebacker Anthony Barr in a greater edge-rushing roll to spell Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly.
It’s hard to forecast the direction this game will go. Both pass defenses have been susceptible, but there’s reason to believe both can bounce back. On the other hand, if the Vikings — who are missing a key corner and defensive end — get exposed once again, they could find themselves playing catch-up for the fourth game in a row.
This may end up being the tightly-contested slugfest many expected in last January’s NFC Championship as both teams vie to break out of an early slump.
Eagles 26, Vikings 24