The Minnesota Vikings come off the bye week on Sunday, traveling to Philadelphia for a matchup with the Carson Wentz led Eagles. Philly shot out of the gates with a surprising 3-0 start but has since faltered, dropping its last two contests to the Lions and the Redskins. Before we preview the matchup, let’s take a quick look at the Eagles.
Offense: The obvious storyline heading into this one is the duel between Sam Bradford and rookie Carson Wentz. The two will be inevitably linked for at least the rest of this season and possibly beyond thanks to the trade that sent Bradford to Minnesota eight days before the start of the regular season. The trade has been called a win for both teams as Bradford and Wentz have each been impressive in the season’s early stages.
Wentz has the 10th-best passer rating (99.9) in the NFL, completing 65 percent of his passes for 237.2 yards per game with seven touchdowns and just one interception. He is averaging about 7.6 yards per attempt and Pro Football Focus has Wentz ranked as the second-highest quarterback grade at 90.9. Philadelphia is fourth-overall in scoring at 27 points per contest.
New Eagles coach Doug Pederson has brought the offense from Kansas City with him, employing a lot of quick passes and screens to help its young quarterback. Philadelphia is 22nd in the league averaging 338.8 yards per game. The rush attack is spearheaded by DeMarco Murray, er Ryan Mathews whose fumble late against the Lions cost the Eagles a chance at a 4-0 start. Mathews has three touchdowns on the year, totaling 206 yards on 53 carries. While Mathews has taken the bulk of the carries, veteran Darren Sproles (28 carries, 116 yards) and rookie Wendell Smallwood (24 carries, 102 yards, TD) have been in the mix as well. As a team the Eagles are eighth in the NFL is rushing, averaging 113.6 per game.
On the outside Wentz is finding Jordan Matthews with regularity—connecting 22 times for 344 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Nelson Agholor has added 16 catches for 181 yards and a score while tight ends Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton have combined for 23 receptions and 369 yards. Dorial Green-Beckham is big target on the outside at 6-5, 235 pounds but has only 11 catches for 131 yards to this point.
Philadelphia’s biggest weakness is on the offensive line, particularly at right tackle. Starter Lance Johnson has been suspended for 10 games, thrusting rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai into the starting lineup. Vaitai was given a grade of 39 by PFF following his first start last week against Washington. Center Jason Kelce has been battling injuries and is having one the worst seasons of his six-year career. Guards Allen Barbre and Brandon Brooks have been solid, according to PFF and perennial Pro Bowler Jason Peters has remained steady at left tackle.
Defense: The Eagles come into Sunday’s matchup with the third-best scoring defense, allowing 15.6 points per game. Their success starts with the defensive line anchored by Fletcher Cox who has four sacks and a forced fumble. Pro Football Focus has Cox ranked as the third-best interior lineman in the league while defensive end Brandon Graham (3 sacks; 1 forced fumble) comes in at No. 2 overall for edge defenders. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan, listed as questionable for Sunday, is also having a very solid year. The trio of Cox, Graham and Logan will move all over the line and are really the strength of this defense.
New defensive coordinator Jim Swartz has the unit playing extremely well. The Eagles are fourth in the league in passing yards allowed (207.4) and 18th against the run (104.5 yards per game). Philadelphia has created eight turnovers (4 INT, 4 fumbles recovered) and is 11th in the league with 14 sacks. Linebacker Jordan Hicks has showed well this year, totaling 20 tackles and three passes defended.
Special teams: Kicker Caleb Sturgis is 12-of-13 on the year, including connecting from 53 yards. Sproles remains a dangerous return man, averaging over 11 yards per punt return with a 40-yarder under his belt already. Smallwood has been dynamic in the kick-return game, posting an 86-yarder for a touchdown while averaging 46.3 yards per return. Punter Donnie Jones averages 44.3 yards per punt, pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line eight times.