After a wild Week 1 in the NFL, we're already into the second week of the season. Our first contest of this week pits last year's No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the NFC against each other as the Minnesota Vikings travel to Philadelphia to take on the defending conference champion Eagles.
Philly got off to a 1-0 start by defeating the Patriots in New England last week, while the Vikings took a step backward, falling in defeat against the Buccaneers. These two teams also met in Week 2 last season, with the Eagles prevailing 24-7 in a game that didn't really feel all that close.
Will anything be different this time around? We're about to find out. Before we break down the matchup, here's a look at how you can watch the game.
How to watch Eagles-Vikings
- Date: Thursday, Sept. 14 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
- Location: Lincoln Financial Field
- Stream: Amazon Prime Video
- Follow: CBS Sports App
- Odds: Eagles -6.5; O/U 49 (via SportsLine consensus odds)
Note: "Thursday Night Football" is nationally broadcast on Prime Video, but Eagles vs. Vikings is also available locally via Fox, which can be streamed on fubo.
When the Vikings have the ball
The Vikings piled up 369 yards of offense against the Buccaneers in Week 1, but managed just 20 points thanks to their settling for two red-zone field goals. They moved the ball well against Tampa, though, averaging 5.9 yards per play -- a figure that tied the 49ers for second leaguewide.
Minnesota mostly moved it through the air, with Kirk Cousins completing 33 of 44 passes (75%) for 328 yards (7.8 per attempt). Somewhat surprisingly, the Patriots moved the ball well through the air against the Eagles last week, with Mac Jones throwing a league-high 54 passes and totaling 316 yards and three scores. The Pats piled up passing yards despite the fact that Philadelphia's defensive front looked as dominant as ever, and rookie defensive tackle Jalen Carter, in particular, repeatedly breaking through the line to get pressure on Jones.
New England mixed in a ton of run-pass option plays (14.1% of their dropbacks, per Tru Media), as well as screens (24.1%), and it helped Jones get rid of the ball quickly on the plays where he wasn't looking to push the ball down the field. Cousins threw just one RPO pass in Week 1 against Tampa and generally has not thrown all that many of them previously in his career, but this could be a good week to work those type of plays into the game plan. Given Philadelphia's strength up front and the relative weakness of its linebackers (especially with Nakobe Dean on injured reserve) and safeties compared to the defensive linemen and cornerbacks, those types of throws should prove to be one of the best ways to attack the Eagles defense all season.
They would also help the Vikings with a potential emerging problem along the offensive line. Center Garrett Bradbury was ruled out for this game due to injury, while left tackle Christian Darrisaw was limited all week and is listed as questionable. RPOs and screens reduce the amount of time the offensive line has to hold up in pass protection and allow for cleaner throws, though those benefits come at the expense of being able to threaten defenses to the deeper areas of the field.
Minnesota's pass game will always flow through Justin Jefferson, who was once again outrageously good in Week 1 with 9 catches for 150 yards on his 12 targets, but it's worth noting that this will be one of the toughest matchups he faces all season as he mostly tangles with Darius Slay and James Bradberry on the outside. (Update: Bradberry will miss the game due to injury.) Lining Jefferson up in the slot more often could have its benefits, even if it means sacrificing some of the ceiling that those deeper perimeter routes might offer. This could also be a good week to get both T.J. Hockenson and Alexander Mattison more involved in the pass game, in an effort to pick on Philly's linebackers and safeties.
Minnesota struggled to run the ball against the Bucs' typically stingy defensive front, with Mattison gaining only 34 yards on his 11 carries and Ty Chandler gaining none on three totes. Philadelphia similarly stifled the combination of Rhamondre Stevenson (12 carries for 25 yards) and Ezekiel Elliott (7 for 29) last week, but did yield 11 catches for 78 yards to the backs on their 13 combined targets. Again, it seems like the Vikes should lean on throwing the ball over the middle as often as possible, as that is generally the most vulnerable part of the Eagles' defense.
When the Eagles have the ball
The Eagles posted just 251 yards of offense last week against the Patriots, a figure that would have been their worst mark of the 2022 season. Some of that is due to their having lost a possession thanks to Darius Slay's pick-six, but Philly also managed a paltry 4.1 yards per play overall as the run game struggled to get untracked (14 carries for 54 yards by Kenneth Gainwell, 9 carries for 37 yards by Jalen Hurts, and a pair of three-yard runs by D'Andre Swift and Boston Scott) and Hurts had one of the most inefficient passing games of his career. (His 5.2 yards per attempt were his fourth-worst mark in 39 career starts.)
Much of Hurts' struggles could be attributed to the fact that, a year after being one of the most prolific deep-ball throwers in the NFL (on throws of 15-plus air yards, Hurts racked up the 10th-most yards and fourth-most passing touchdowns leaguewide despite missing two games due to injury), Hurts went 0-fer on those same throws against New England, failing to complete any of his six such pass attempts. One of those plays could have been a long completion to A.J. Brown had the receiver not momentarily bobbled the ball near the sideline, but that was a second-reaction play that saw Hurts first pass up the opportunity to take a one-on-one shot to DeVonta Smith on the opposite side; and Hurts otherwise went 0-for-5 on deep passes.
Obviously, we should not expect Hurts to not complete a single deep pass all year. It's worth noting that New England used around a 50-50 split on man and zone coverage against the Eagles. Philadelphia was the second-best passing attack in the NFL against man last season, averaging 0.24 EPA per dropback, according to Tru Media. Against zone, the Eagles ranked 17th at -0.02 EPA per dropback. The Vikings were generally a zone-heavy defense last season under former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, but should play more man under Brian Flores this year. (It's worth noting, however, that Hurts torched Donatell's defense for over 10 yards per attempt last season, and that Flores utilized zone heavily against the Bucs in Week 1.) If Minnesota plays man against Brown and Smith, it's likely that cornerbacks Byron Murphy, Josh Metellus (he's nominally a safety but played the most slot snaps of any Minnesota DB), and Akayleb Evans will have their hands full and struggle to keep the explosive duo from going off.
Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson also mentioned this week that he has to do a better job of getting the ball in the hands of both Swift (3 total yards on 2 touches) Dallas Goedert (0 catches), but it could be tough to do that this week against a Vikings defense that has Harrison Smith lurking in and around the box at all times. This is a week to air it out and use the advantages the Eagles have built on the perimeter, though it should be easier to get Swift (and Rashaad Penny) involved in the run game given that Kenneth Gainwell will miss this contest while nursing a ribs injury suffered in Week 1.
Minnesota's run defense was a bit better than its pass defense last season and the Vikes held Rachaad White and Co. in check last week, but that's nothing like the challenge they'll face against the NFL's best offensive line and one of its premier quarterback rushing threats on Thursday night. Penny has also been wildly efficient on the ground whenever healthy and given the opportunity, and even if Swift tends to drive coaches crazy by hitting the wrong hole or refusing to take contact, he has always been able to create splash plays with his athleticism and elusiveness.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Vikings 23
Philadelphia's offensive struggles against New England last week seem more like a function of an excellent Patriots defense and some bad weather than anything fundamentally wrong with what was one of the most efficient and explosive units in the league last season. Even with Justin Jefferson, the Vikings don't have the firepower to match what the Eagles should be able to do vertically against a defense that just allowed Baker Mayfield to escape the gamer without any turnovers and just one sack.
I like my pick for this game, but you might like R.J. White's better. He's our gambling guru over at SportsLine.com and he's been on roll with his Vikings predictions, going 56-31-4 on his last 91 picks, which means he has an absurd .626 hit rate with his Vikings picks. If you want to check out White's pick, you can do that here.