Eagles vs. Vikings: 3 key matchups that will determine Monday night’s contest
On Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles will play in front of their home crowd for the first time this season, as Kirk Cousins and his Minnesota Vikings travel to South Philly for a primetime showdown.
On paper, this matchup has all the makings of a potential playoff showcase. Both teams are fresh off Week 1 victories and looking to stake their claims to NFC supremacy.
Minnesota’s top pass catcher — and the bane of Philadelphia’s existence — Justin Jefferson led the league in receiving on opening weekend, racking up 184 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. Philly’s own No. 1 wideout, AJ Brown, is also looking to continue his dominance in Week 2, after beating up on Detroit’s secondary to the tune of 10 catches for 155 yards.
Both offenses racked up over 385 total yards in Week 1 while averaging over six yards per play. We’re primed for a shootout under the Monday Night Football lights this week.
Here are three key matchups that could determine Monday’s contest between Philly and Minnesota.
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Dallas Goedert vs. Vikings’ linebackers/safeties
Overall, Minnesota’s pass defense had a nice showing in Week 1. They limited Aaron Rodgers to just 195 yards through the air while snagging one interception.
Where the Vikings’ defense did struggle, however, was with Green Bay’s tight end group. Robert Tonyan, Josiah Deguara, and Tyler Davis combined for six receptions on eight targets (75% completion percentage) for 67 yards (11.2 yards per reception).
Eagles TE Dallas Goedert was only targeted four times in Week 1, but he made the most out of his opportunities, tallying three receptions for 60 yards.
It didn’t matter who Minnesota assigned to cover Green Bay’s tight ends last week, the Packers’ TE group still put up numbers. Although Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith posted a 89.3 Pro Football Focus coverage grade on opening weekend, he still allowed four of the five passes thrown his way to get completed and didn’t force a single incompletion when facing Tonyan or Deguara.
AJ Brown was the clear focal point of Philly’s passing attack in Week 1. This time around, utilizing the matchup nightmare that is Dallas Goedert may be the best route to take. Minnesota will key on Brown after his dominant performance against Detroit, which should give Goedert ample opportunities to feast on their safeties and linebackers.
Eagles pass protection vs. Vikings’ vaunted pass rush
Philly’s offensive line managed to keep Jalen Hurts upright for the majority of Sunday’s contest in Detroit. They allowed just one sack on the day along with nine total pressures. Of course, Hurts used his legs to escape a handful of pressures, something he may need to utilize once again against Minnesota’s pass rush.
Facing a banged up Packers offensive line, Minnesota racked up four sacks on 18 pressure and 13 hurries. Edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter combined for five pressures and two sacks against Green Bay. The Smith-Hunter duo could be the toughest edge rushing tandem the Eagles face all season.
Luckily for the Eagles, they have arguably the best duo of tackles in the NFL with Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson. On 44 pass blocking sets, the tackle duo only allowed two pressures combined against Detroit. Johnson hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 11 of the 2020 season. That streak will be put to the test facing Minnesota’s linebacker tandem.
Justin Jefferson vs. Eagles secondary
This will (and should be) the most talked about matchup heading into Monday night. Jefferson tore the Packers to shreds last week and figures to be Minnesota’s offensive focal point all season.
It didn’t matter who Green Bay put on the former LSU Tiger, Jefferson ate all day. Even against Pro Bowl corner Jaire Alexander, Jefferson looked unstoppable.
The Eagles CB duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry did a great job in coverage last week.
On the day, Slay and Bradberry were targeted a combined 15 times by Jared Goff. They surrendered just four receptions for 68 yards. 22 of those yards came on a DJ Chark touchdown in the fourth quarter. Slay still had a solid coverage on the wideout, Chark just made a great play on the ball.
Nevertheless, Slay and Bradberry will have their work cut out for them facing Jefferson. He’s miles better than anyone in Detroit’s arsenal and will likely be the toughest matchup the CB tandem faces all year.
Jonathan Gannon doesn’t typically ask his corners to follow receivers and I don’t expect that to change this week. There’s not much of a drop off in coverage ability between Slay and Bradberry anyway.
Jefferson will line up in the slot on about 30-35 percent of the Viking’s offensive snaps, which could cause serious matchup problems for the Eagles. Avonte Maddox and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson were eaten alive in coverage last week, allowing 10 receptions on 13 targets (76.9% completion percentage) for 102 yards.
Jefferson did the majority of his damage from the slot alignment in Week 1. When facing slot corner Rasul Douglas or either of the Packers safeties — Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos — the wideout recorded six receptions on seven targets for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Given how lackluster both Maddox and CGJ were in coverage last week, we should expect a heavy dose of Jefferson in the slot once again in this matchup.
It’ll be up to Gannon and his defensive coaching staff to scheme up ways to limit the amount of damage Jefferson inflicts from the slot position. It certainly won’t be easy.