LET’S take this one step at a time. People here are consumed with the term “underdog” but then they look right past Minnesota. I’m not sure if that’s irony or outright hypocrisy. In any case, Minnesota should get our full attention this week. We need to focus our positive energy on our team, and our negative energy on our opponent.
Win and we’re in. There’s no assist from Mother Nature this week, so it seems Philly fans will be the only X-factor that the Eagles can rely on. We’re going to need it, because dumb luck has seems to be on Minnesota’s side this season. Whether it’s last second fluke plays, or having the fewest number of key players on I.R., they’ve had a cushy road up until now. So we need sauce for the goose.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Vikings:
1) Stop the run: We need to put this game squarely on Minnesota’s QB’s shoulders. To this point he’s been lucky even when he’s makes mistakes. His coach even said so in November, telling a reporter “…he’s got a horseshoe right now.” Look at last week… 40 attempts and his only TD is on that goofy last play? C’mon! Enough! Let’s see him put that offense on his back, and go toe-to-toe with our Defense for 30 minutes.
2) Challenge their defense: Might sound nuts, but watch Minnesota’s defense, and you’ll notice that they generally rush 4 linemen, and keep 2 LB’s in the box. (Like most teams their 3rd LB may split time 50/50 with a DB.) Those 2 LB’s don’t immediately drop into coverage. They “float” for a second looking for the run and to discourage any underneath “Cross” or “In” routes. That floating also allows them to react quickly to “Hitch” routes and even lets them help on “Slants” and “Screens”. In short, they don’t give you anything quick and easy. It’s not “clever”, it’s plain genius. But it has an Achilles Heel. If either of those LB’s are forced to cover a RB “Wheel” or a TE “Out” route, the defense loses integrity and allows the QB time to find an open man down-field, or even scramble for a quick 4 – 5 yards. QB Nick Foles averaged 8.2 yards per pass against Atlanta’s vaunted Cover Three last week, and this scheme is a lot simpler to read. Oh yeah, Minnesota is also small on their left side, so a 2 TE formation gives their opponent an easier time running inside.
3) Collapse the pocket: DT’s Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan
should have a field day on Sunday. (Bit of trivia: Of Minnesota’s starting offensive linemen, the only one they spent a draft pick on, was their C, in this year’s 3rd round.) Minnesota’s interior o-line was already kind of ho-hum, but with the loss of G Nick Easton, they’ll have to rely on a back-up with almost no upside. He’s also 6’6 with a tendency to play tall. At Guard. If we take away the middle, it shuts down the run, and puts their QB within arm’s reach of a forced fumble by our DE’s.
4) Speed Kills: Given how few balls Minnesota’s CB’s have intercepted this year, I can’t understand why anyone fears them so much. In fact, given CB Xavier Rhodes 3 pass interference to 2 interception season, I think forcing him to get grabby against WR Torrey Smith is a recipe for free yards and easy points. Make these son-of-a-bitches work for it. Enough of these guys being allowed to cash in on a rep that they haven’t really earned.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
This game will be decided by which Eagles team shows up. The Vikings don’t matter in this equation. They can’t win this game unless we hand it to them. Period.
When the head coach is telling the media that the QB has been getting lucky, something’s wrong. When that same head coach is telling the media that the QB that he just activated from I.R. stands a chance of replacing the starter, something’s wrong. When the offensive line has less depth than a kiddie pool, something’s wrong. When you telegraph your play selection by which RB you have on the field, something’s wrong. There is plenty wrong with Minnesota. However, half a year of playing Mitch Trubisky (twice), Brett Hundley (twice), Deshon Kizer, Jameis Winston and the 2017 version of Joe Flacco, has a way of masking any deficiencies.
Minnesota doesn’t belong here, but we have to take them seriously, otherwise we beat ourselves FOR them. They’re scarcely a playoff team, so they damned sure aren’t a Championship team. Our Eagles need to be about the business of setting that record straight. If this team comes out like the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, then the Minnesota Vikings 2017 season is a wrap.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 24 – Vikings 17