Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) waits off the field prior to the Eagles game agains the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on October 16, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
1 of 3 | Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) waits off the field prior to the Eagles game agains the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on October 16, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Minnesota Vikings (5-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Lincoln Financial Field. TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews.


SERIES HISTORY: 23rd regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 13-9. The Vikings have won two straight under strange circumstances. In 2013, as the Leslie Frazier regime was going down in flames, the Vikings upset a playoff-bound Eagles team 48-30 at the Metrodome. A week later, the Vikings were dominated at Cincinnati by a defensive coordinator named Mike Zimmer. In 2010, the Vikings traveled to Philadelphia for a Sunday game that wasn't played until Tuesday night because of the threat of a snow storm that never grew to the strength that was expected. That game helped Leslie Frazier eliminate the interim tag he held after stepping in for the fired Brad Childress earlier in the season. The Vikings were blitz-heavy that night, catching the playoff-bound Eagles off-guard in a 24-14 upset. The teams have met three times in the playoffs. The Eagles have won all three, including two divisional meetings and a wild-card matchup in which then-Eagles coach Andy Reid brought his No. 6-seeded team to the Metrodome and defeated his former Eagles and now current Chiefs assistant Childress and his No. 3-seeded Vikings 26-14 during the 2008 season.


GAMEDATE: 10/23/16

KEYS TO THE GAME: Teammates turned opposition by the Sept. 3 trade that pushed Eagles rookie Carson Wentz into a starting job and Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings equates to mutual familiarity that will fuel the game plan for both sides.

The Vikings are No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed and coach Mike Zimmer's defense will pick up where the Washington Redskins left off last week in rolling pressure packages at Wentz. His mobility was not a major factor against the Redskins, who hemmed Wentz in the pocket with relentless pressure and exposed RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who allowed two sacks and numerous pressures.

Wentz limits mistakes, but Bradford has made none. The Vikings are the only offense in the NFL without a turnover. The Vikings have 19 sacks and lead the NFL with a plus-11 turnover differential. The Vikings apply heat and don't turn it off.

Getting him help -- using tight ends to set the edge protection and utilizing the ground game -- is a must for the Eagles to pull the upset.

Minnesota has 10 players on injured reserve but the Vikings' conservative approach on offense suits the game plan of letting a talented defense win games.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon has good burst when the line creates a seam but too often he's meeting first contact behind the line of scrimmage, and averages just 3.1 yards per carry. The Eagles are struggling to get good push at the line of scrimmage and yield 4.8 yards per carry.


--Vikings PR Marcus Sherels vs. Eagles PR Darren Sproles. No, they won't face each other. But they could put on quite the show if their opponent's coverage units aren't attentive, aggressive and careful. Sherels has a league-high two return touchdowns and is third in the league with a 16.5-yard average. He's a big reason the Vikings awoke from their slumber to win at Carolina. He'll face a 13-year veteran punter in Donnie Jones. Together with his coverage guys, Jones ranks 24th in net punting average at 38.2. They've also given up a punt return for a touchdown. They'll need to do better against Sherels. Meanwhile, the Vikings get Sproles, who is 10th in the league in punt return average (11.2) and seemingly always a pain in the Vikings' backside as either an offensive or special teams matchup. The Vikings counter with Jeff Locke, who is having his best season. He already has 13 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. His punts have better hang time, which has allowed the coverage unit to limit opponents to a 7.9-yard average with just 63 total return yards.


--Eagles QB Carson Wentz vs. Vikings FS Harrison Smith. Wentz cruised through a 3-0 start without an interception. Then he threw a damaging one near the end of the loss to Detroit. Another loss to Washington followed, but Wentz still has seven touchdown passes to only one interception. Smith will play a vital role in coach Mike Zimmer's attempt to confuse the rookie quarterback. If the Vikings can stop the run, Zimmer's creative fronts and third-down packages increase tremendously in difficulty to decipher. Smith's instincts, savvy and speed enable him to show blitz off the edge and drop deep, or vice versa. Six Vikings share the team's seven interceptions. Smith doesn't have one, although he flat-out dropped a pick-six against the Texans. And Wentz will have plenty to worry about, starting with the Vikings' front-seven defenders rushing him. But he better make sure he knows where Smith is at all times. Otherwise, Smith has a knack for slipping into perfect position for pick-sixes.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings QB Sam Bradford. Perhaps too obvious, but no one should or will look past Bradford in this game. Traded by the Eagles to the Vikings eight days before the season started, Bradford has played nearly perfect. He sat behind Shaun Hill for a week and then posted the first four-game winning streak of his career. He leads the NFL in completion percentage (70.4), ranks second in passer rating (109.7) and continues to direct an offense that has not turned the ball over this season. Going back to last season with the Eagles, Bradford has thrown 152 straight passes without an interception. The Eagles are 3-2 with rookie first-round draft pick Carson Wentz. And they get the Vikings' first-round pick next year and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2018. But Bradford can make the Eagles regret the trade for at least one day if he goes back into Philly and plays like he has to this point in Minnesota.


INJURY REPORT: Minnesota -- Out: DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), TE Mycole Pruitt (knee, back). Doubtful: WR Jarius Wright (ankle). Questionable: WR Stefon Diggs (groin), WR Laquon Treadwell (thumb). Philadelphia -- Questionable: CB Ron Brooks (calf), LB Mychal Kendricks (ribs), DT Bennie Logan (groin), CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring).

FAST FACTS: Dating to last season, the Vikings have a streak of nine games without allowing more than 18 points. ... Vikings S Anthony Sendejo (fumble lost) has the only Minnesota turnover this season. ... Wentz has one interception in 157 pass attempts. Bradford has zero in 125 passes.

PREDICTION: Unless the Eagles commit to lighting a fire with the running game to ease the strain on rookie QB Carson Wentz, Minnesota gets to 6-0 with a feisty defense healthy and rested after last week's bye.

OUR PICK: Vikings, 22-14.

--Jeff Reynolds

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