October 21, 2016
Which Eagles team is going to show up on Sunday: the one that started off 3-0 and owned the best point differential in the NFL, or the one that allowed 230 rushing yards last week and is on pace to post a historic number of penalties?
If Doug Pederson wants to avoid dropping to .500 for the first time since the season began, he better do whatever he can to make sure it's the former. Otherwise, the 5-0 Vikings are going to remain undefeated while he and the Birds head back to the drawing board.
"It's been my message to the football team is that sometimes it doesn't really matter -- there's going to be times when you just get physically whipped and you get beat," Pederson said Friday. "But it's when you beat yourself, and I felt like last week we kind of beat ourselves. And it was a collective effort; it was all three phases, and I challenged the leadership of the football team, the veteran guys of the football team. They're the ones that have to take ownership and kind of show the young guys how to play, how to practice, how to execute during the game.
"I really felt like coming away these last two weeks, it's still a good football team with opportunities to win both of those games and be in a different situation today."
Avoiding penalties alone won't be enough to guarantee the Eagles get back on track Sunday. As Pederson said, "there's going to be times when you just get physically whipped and you get beat."
And right now, there's no NFL defense more dangerous than the Vikings. Correcting the penalties will be a start, but those were hardly the only reason for concern following the loss to the Redskins.
Here's a look at how our staff sees Sunday's game playing out as Sam Bradford makes his return to the Linc:
TV: FOX | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Vikings -3 | TOTAL: 40.0 (via topbet.eu)
The Vikings have not yet allowed an opponent to score more than 16 points in any game this season. Here is what they have done to opposing quarterbacks:
|QB||CMP-ATT (CMP%)||YDS (Y/A)||TD-INT||RTG|
|M. Mariota||25-41 (61%)||271 (6.6)||2-1||86.5|
|A. Rodgers||20-36 (55.6%)||213 (5.9)||1-1||70.7|
|C. Newton||21-35 (60%)||262 (7.5)||0-3||47.6|
|E. Manning||25-45 (55.6%)||261 (5.8)||0-1||63.3|
|B. Osweiler||19-42 (45.2%)||184 (4.4)||1-1||56.1|
|TOTAL||111-200 (55.5%)||1194 (6.0)||4-7||65.3|
Oh, and they lead the league in sacks per game. Oh, and they're only allowing 77.8 rushing yards per game on 3.7 yards per carry, to a lot of teams who are good at running the football.
The Vikings' defense should have no trouble overwhelming the Eagles' offensive line and skill position players, with Sam Bradford managing the game well enough to get the win on the other side of the ball.
And the Sleevie Wonder apologists will go, "SEEEE? SEEEEEEEEEEEEE?!?" Vikings, 23-13.
In the NFL, the key is not to get too high after a big win or low after a sound defeat. That’s precisely the hollow coaching cliché the Eagles need to be telling themselves after getting smoked last week in Landover. Has there even been a more lopsided 7-point game in NFL history?
Sammy Sleeves and the Vikings are legit Super Bowl contenders, but the offense can be conservative at times because they know an elite defense is always there to back them up. They don’t mind punting, which has to be a pretty good feeling. Against what should be a fired-up Eagles defense, it says here that will come back to bite Minnesota.
Even with the porous and undisciplined defense the last two weeks, the Eagles’ major concern is still Big V and the offensive line. The rookie settled down in the second half of his first game, but it’s hard to tell if that was a mirage or if he’ll continue to play steadier football as the season progresses. Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, and co. have another week of practice to prepare him, which can’t hurt.
One last thing: The line on this game opened at only Vikings -1.5. If Vegas thinks this game is going to be close, I trust Vegas. Behind three field goals from Caleb Sturgis, the Eagles score the upset in a low-scoring game.
I really hate making predictions. And I'm not just saying that because I was wrong each of the last two weeks. Much like the Eagles, however, I risk dropping my third straight game coming off the bye because if you're not careful, losing can become a slippery slope.
After starting 3-0, I felt like the Eagles would go 2-1 in this stretch. The way it looked at the time, I figured a win against the Lions would be followed by a loss in D.C. with their Week 7 matchup against the Vikings causing it to be a trap game. Then, they'd bounce back with the upset win over Minnesota.
But when they lost to the Lions, the Birds' NFC East opener no longer seemed like a game they would overlook. So I predicted a win and, again, was wrong. Now, with those first three weeks not all that far in the past, it's somewhat hard to see them losing a third straight despite their last two results and the fact that they're facing the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL.
On paper, this is a game that the Vikings should win. But, to continue with the long view approach I just outlined above, there's something jumping out at me about the Eagles this week. Immediately following the Lions loss, it hit me like a ton of bricks: Detroit was a team in desperate need of a win, facing an Eagles team that was undefeated and flying high after hitting the bye as the hottest team in football.
On Sunday, the Eagles will be the team with that extra motivation. That may just be enough to even out whatever personnel advantages the Vikings do have. But the difference between winning and losing, as was the case in that Lions game, will be a small one. After all, the Birds had a late lead in that one, plus another chance to go ahead in the final minutes.
Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to be enough. And if falling back to .500 isn't enough of a gut-punch for Eagles fans, just picture this ending: Sam Bradford leads the Vikings down the field for a game-winning field goal as time expires.