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January 15, 2018

The Eagles' defense is every bit as good as the Vikings'

Eagles NFL
011518BrandonGraham Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox lead an Eagles' defense that will likely take a back seat to the Vikings in the hype department this week.

During the regular season, the Minnesota Vikings had the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL, and as such, expect them to be praised vigorously throughout the week. 

It's well deserved. The Vikings have a pair of first-team All-Pros in their secondary in CB Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith, as well as second-team All-Pro DE Everson Griffen. Those elite playmakers are surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast of players including DT Linval Joseph, DE Danielle Hunter, S Andrew Sendejo, as well as LBs Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. They have star power, and a complete lack of glaring holes.

What might get lost this week is that the Eagles' defense is pretty damn good too. Here's a side-by-side statistical look at the Vikings' and Eagles' defenses during the regular season:

Stat Vikings Eagles 
 Total yards allowed per game275.9 (1st) 306.5 (4th) 
 Yards allowed per play4.6 (2nd) 5.0 (9th) 
 Points per game allowed15.8 (1st) 18.4 (4th) 
 Takeaways19 (23rd) 31 (4th) 
 First downs allowed per game16.2 (2nd) 17.0 (5th) 
 Third down percentage25% (1st) 32% (3rd) 
 Red zone defense (TD%)43.2% (2nd) 53.7% (16th) 
 Rushing yards allowed per game 83.6 (2nd) 79.2 (1st)
Rushing yards allowed per play 3.7 (5th) 3.8 (T-6th) 
 Passing yards allowed per game 192.4 (2nd)227.3 (17th) 
 Passing yards allowed per play6.0 (T-1st)6.5 (T-3rd) 
Sacks 37 (T-17th) 38 (T-15th) 
Defensive touchdowns 1 (T-22nd) 6 (T-2nd) 
DVOA -13.9% (2nd) -12.6% (5th) 


As you can see, the Vikings' defense is in the top five in almost every major statistical category, with two exceptions. The Eagles crack the top five in nine of the 14 categories shown above.

However, the one glaring statistic where the Vikings aren't particularly impressive is takeaways. On the season, the Vikings produced 19 turnovers, which was good for 23rd in the NFL. The Eagles produced 31 turnovers, fourth in the NFL, and one turnover shy of averaging two per game.

On average, the Eagles produced 1.94 turnovers per game, vs. 1.18 for the Vikings'. A difference of 0.76 takeaways per game is a substantial, while a difference of 30.6 yards allowed per game is not. The Eagles also scored six defensive touchdowns during the regular season, as compared to one for the Vikings. 

On the premise that the Eagles make substantially more big plays than the Vikings, in my view, they are right there with them in terms of overall performance.

Oh, and on Sunday night, they'll have pretty loud crowd behind them.


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