The Philadelphia Eagles are in a must-win situation, heading into their pivotal Week 5 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX.
This is a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game, where the Eagles blew out Minnesota, 38-7, behind a stellar performance from quarterback Nick Foles and the defense.
However, unlike last’s year’s game, neither Philadelphia nor Minnesota have played up to par through the first four weeks of this season. The Eagles are coming off an embarrassing overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans, while the Vikings are looking to rebound from a high-scoring loss against the Los Angeles Rams.
Can the Eagles rekindle that magic they had in last year’s NFC title game? Or will Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins keep up his great play against Philly?
To answer those questions and more, here are three things to watch for in this must-win game:
1. Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Cousins – You know how Stephen A. Smith says that the Dallas Cowboys are always an accident waiting to happen. The same notion can be applied to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is a quarterback that strings together great performances or plays but always makes that one mistake where it leaves you completely befuddled. This is what happened last week against the Rams.
The veteran signal caller had an outstanding game, completing 72 percent of his passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns. However, with 1:26 left in the game, Cousins was stripped from behind and turned the ball over to Los Angeles. That is the epitome of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Cousins.
But when it comes to the Eagles, Cousins has been a thorn in their side over the last few seasons.
In seven games, he has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. Those 16 touchdown passes are the most he’s thrown against any team in his career.
For the Eagles to pull out a victory on Sunday, they need to apply pressure to Cousins early and often because if they don’t, it could be a long day for the secondary.
2. A balanced offensive attack – In last Sunday’s game against Tennessee, the Eagles were not balanced at all on offense.
Under the direction of new offensive coordinator Mike Groh and head coach Doug Pederson, quarterback Carson Wentz threw the ball 50 times, while they only ran the ball 20 times. It was not a recipe for success as Wentz was left open to take numerous violent hits from Titan defenders.
Therefore, the Eagles’ coaching staff cannot repeat this same performance against a Vikings defense, which has accumulated 11 sacks this season.
Philly should have running back Jay Ajayi on Sunday, but could be without Corey Clement and Darren Sproles for another week. Both players are dealing with nagging leg injuries and play essential roles in the Eagles’ running back by committee system.
Nevertheless, the Eagles still must commit to running the ball more 20 times as the Vikings have given up at least 100 rushing yards over this last two games.
3. Eagles secondary vs. Vikings WRs
It seems as if the secondary is a point of conversation every week this season and for good reason, they have played horribly. Their bend-but-don’t-break style has hurt them twice already because of poor fundamentals and lackluster tackling.
There’s nothing wrong with playing off the line of scrimmage consistently, but you have to wrap up and tackle. One-armed tackles and getting continuously beat over the top will kill your defense.
If the Eagles’ secondary thought things would get easier for them that is not the case. They now face the tough task of covering Vikings receivers Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
It will not be easy on Sunday, but one would hope that the Eagles’ secondary learned their lesson from last week.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz made it clear earlier in the week that he will be sticking with cornerback Jalen Mills on the outside. Expect Minnesota to test Mills often along with rookie Avonte Maddox, who should get some snaps at safety.