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September 12, 2023

Eagles vs. Vikings: Five matchups to watch

Eagles NFL
091223DariusSlay Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Darius Slay owned Justin Jefferson last season.

After their uneasy Week 1 win over the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles will host the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener Week 2 on Thursday Night Football. Here are our five matchups to watch.

1) Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Eagles CB Darius Slay

Did you guys know that the Eagles could have drafted Jefferson in the 2020 NFL Draft, but instead they took Jalen Reagor? Little known fact, but it's true!

In three seasons in Minnesota, Jefferson has put up the following numbers:

Justin Jefferson Rec Yards YPC TD 
2020 88 1400 15.9 
2021 108 1616 15.0 10 
2022 128 1809 14.1 

And then in one game so far in 2023, he has 9 catches for 150 yards. He was probably the No. 1 overall pick in your fantasy football draft. My #analysis: He's good.

In the Eagles' matchup with the Vikings in 2022, Jefferson was apparently planning some sort of super cool thing after the game if the Vikings beat the Eagles.

That didn't happen, as Darius Slay had one of the best single-game cornerback performances in Eagles history while mostly covering Jefferson:

Postgame, Jefferson was nowhere to be found.


Jefferson will no doubt be eager to make up for that game. With James Bradberry in the concussion protocol and not a lot of time to clear it on a short week, second-year CB Josh Jobe may have to start. It feels like a pretty obvious call to have Slay follow Jefferson wherever he goes.

"We have to do what's best for our matchups and our players that gives us the best chance, and doesn't hurt us," Sean Desai said on Tuesday, when asked about having corners traveling with receivers. "We have to make sure it systematically fits. We've done it. I've done it in my history, and it's a good tool to have when you need it. I'm sure we'll do it throughout the season at different spots if and when we need to."

2) Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson vs. the Eagles' linebackers and safeties

Hockenson made the Pro Bowl a year ago after racking up 86 catches for 914 yards and 6 TDs while playing for the Lions and Vikings. This offseason, he scored a four-year, $66 million extension, making him the second-highest paid TE in the NFL on an average annual value basis.

Patriots tight ends Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki combined for 8 catches for 92 yards and a TD on 9 targets against the Eagles Week 1. They got open at will in the middle of the field and extended drives all afternoon.

With Nakobe Dean set to miss "multiple weeks" with a foot injury, the Eagles will likely be starting Zach Cunningham and Christian Elliss at off-ball linebacker, which feels like a significant mismatch in the Vikings' favor.

3) Where might the Eagles go feastin'?

The Vikings have always had good skill position players, but their Kryptonite offensively has been their offensive line. As such, they have spent a lot of draft resources on their O-line, and their starting five is fully comprised of home-grown talent:

Christian Darrisaw
23rd pick, 2021 
Ezra Cleveland
58th pick, 2020 
Garrett Bradbury
18th pick, 2019 
Ed Ingram
59th pick, 2022 
Brian O'Neill
62nd pick, 2018 

All five of those guys were drafted by the Vikings in the first or second rounds, and they are beginning to build some continuity there.

The areas at risk for the Vikings heading into their matchup against the Eagles are at C, RG, and LT. 

• At C, Garrett Bradbury left the Vikings' game against the Buccaneers Week 1 with a back injury. He only played 7 snaps, and was replaced in the lineup by Austin Schlottmann.

• At RG, Ed Ingram is probably their weak link. He struggled as a rookie in 2022, and in Week 1 against the Bucs, PFF had him down for 1 sack and 4 pressures allowed. 

• At LT, Darrisaw missed six snaps on Sunday against the Bucs. He was replaced in the lineup by Oli Udoh. He's considered "day-to-day," but may not be 100 percent.

As we saw Week 1 against the Patriots, Jalen Carter was a beast, Jordan Davis was effective, Fletcher Cox looked rejuvenated, and Milton Williams had a strong day. The interior O-line matchup should be the Vikings' offensive staff's biggest concern.

#FeastinMeter: 4/10 turkey legs 🍗🍗🍗🍗

Update: Bradbury is out, and Darrisaw is questionable, so let's bump the #FeastinMeter up to 6/10 turkey legs 🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗

4) A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert vs. the Vikings' CBs

The 2022 Vikings had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.

Vikings pass D Stat NFL rank 
Passing yards allowed 4515 31 
Yards per attempt allowed 7.3 30 
Passing first downs allowed 224 32 
Completion percentage allowed 66.1 24 

In Week 2 a year ago against the Vikings, Jalen Hurts was outstanding. He was 26 of 31 for 333 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT that wasn't his fault. He spread the ball around, as four Eagles players had at least 69 (nice) receiving yards: 

  1. Dallas Goedert: 5-82
  2. DeVonta Smith: 7-80
  3. Quez Watkins: 2-69-1
  4. A.J. Brown: 5-69

The Vikings defense will look different this season. They fired 2022 defensive coordinator Ed Donatell after the season, and hired the aggressive-minded Brian Flores. While the scheme will change, the Vikings do not have strong corners. Their top guy is Byron Murphy, who they signed to a two year, $17.5 million contract this offseason. Their No. 2 is 2022 fourth-round pick Akayleb Evans, and their nickel is safety Josh Metellus. At linebacker, it's old friend Jordan Hicks and 5'10 rookie sixth-round pick Ivan Pace.

I would expect the Eagles to try to overcorrect for the lack of usage of Dallas Goedert Week 1 and try to get him some targets early. But certainly, the Eagles have to like the matchup of Brown, Smith, and Goedert vs. the Vikings' back seven.

5) The Eagles' offensive line vs. themselves

The Eagles' offensive line had a rare shaky performance Week 1 against a very good Patriots front. The Vikings don't have anywhere near as good a pass rush as the Pats after trading Za'Darius Smith to the Browns this offseason. The only intriguing pass rusher left is Danielle Hunter, who had 71 sacks through his first 7 NFL seasons, and 1 so far in 2023. Flores is likely going to have to generate pressure with blitzes throughout this season.

It will be concerning if the Eagles' offensive line doesn't definitively win this matchup.

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