January 15, 2018
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:
|Total yards allowed per game||275.9 (1st)||306.5 (4th)|
|Yards allowed per play||4.6 (2nd)||5.0 (9th)|
|Points per game allowed||15.8 (1st)||18.4 (4th)|
|Takeaways||19 (23rd)||31 (4th)|
|First downs allowed per game||16.2 (2nd)||17.0 (5th)|
|Third down percentage||25% (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 play||6.0 (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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