Hopefully Chip Kelly’s leadership will influence the Philadelphia Eagles to not take the Vikings lightly. Minnesota is not as bad as you think and could give the Eagles a run for their money if they’re not focused.
The Vikes are 3-9-1, have a bottom-ranked defense in just about all statistical categories and have instability at the game’s most important position (QB). However, despite all that, this team has been playing better in recent weeks.
Their past three games have all come down to the wire and they were in position to win all of them. They tied Green Bay, beat Chicago in OT and then narrowly lost last week by three points to Baltimore in one of the craziest final two minutes of a football game you’ll ever see.
Minnesota’s offense goes as Adrian Peterson goes. He’s their workhorse back and most dynamic player. After initially being “unlikely” to play this week, his status has been upgraded to questionable, which means he has a 50/50 chance of playing.
Peterson seems to have amazing recovery skills so it wouldn’t suprirse me to see him on the field this week.
The funny thing is, Peterson wouldn’t even be the thing that most concerns me about the Vikings’ offense in this game. He’s the running back equivelent of Calvin Johnson…you know he’s a stud and will make plays, you just have to try and limit them.
I’m actually a little more concerned about getting “surprised” by the passing game.
Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Cordarrelle Patterson don’t exactly have eye-popping stats, but each of them has the ability to make a big play.
Jennings is “old reliable” and could be a major factor in the red zone and on key third downs. Simpson is somewhat like Todd Pinkston used to be, a fast outside guy who can hit the occasional deep ball. Patterson is a rookie and starting to come into his own.
And Patterson, by the way, could be the X-factor. He’s a big guy, great speed and the Vikes are starting to get creative with him to find ways to get the ball in his hands.
So, with all that said, here are my keys to the game…
1. Limit the Vikings’ run game. Whether it’s Peterson, Gerhart or their third-stringer, they need to make them earn every yard they get. They can’t allow them to rip off large chunks of yards on a regular basis to set up third and short situations and/or open things up for the passing game.
If the Vikes’ run game is chugging along, this is where I could see the Eagles getting burned for a few big plays in the passing game by these under-rated receivers.
2. Force the Vikings into passing situations. It might be funny-sounding that I say this right after saying they could get burned by the receivers. However, defenses can defend the pass much easier when they know it’s coming.
Stuffing the run and forcing third and longs is part of this equation, but ultimately I want to see the Eagles’ offense put points on the board early and often to get Minny out of their comfort zone on offense.
3. Keep the pedal to the metal! There have been a few occasions this year where the offense either let up or got into a funk after getting comfortable leads and the defense slowly allowed the other team to get back into it.
This game could be a good opportunity for the Eagles to show they’ve developed a killer instinct.
4. Protect Foles and harrass Cassel. This is always a standard key, but the passing game should be a factor in this contest due to the fast surface and the fact that both defenses have their problems in this area.
Therefore, the remedy for a suspect secondary is a good pass rush. The Eagles have the better offensive and defensive lines so they need to win the battle in the trenches.
5. Beware Minnesota’s top-ranked special teams! Even though we can blame the snow, last week the Eagles’ special teams gave up two return touchdowns. Now they face a Vikings unit that has three return TDs on the season.
Patterson is the biggest threat as he averages 33.3 yards per kickoff return and has scored two TDs. Then, punt-returner Marcus Sherels has a healthy average of 13.1 yards per return and has also scored a TD.
I’d hate for an otherwise solid performance on offense and defense to be overshadowed by lapses on special teams. Don’t give up the killer return and don’t give the crowd anything to be excited about.
All in all, this is a game the Eagles should win. The Vikings are in disarray, have some key injuries, and have a defense that should be esily be exploited by both our run and pass games.
However, I never like feeling comfortable because that’s when the unexpected happens and we lose a game we didn’t have any business losing.