Two NFC teams with playoff expectations will meet Sunday in Minneapolis, as the Minnesota Vikings (3-2) host the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2). Each team comes in fresh off of a win against a New York team, with the Vikings squashing the Giants 28-10 and the Eagles clobbering the Jets 31-6.
Here is a preview for Sunday’s matchup, including a couple of betting notes and a prediction. Currently, Minnesota is a favorite at home, listed at -3.
Eagles Starting To Find Wings
After a 1-2 start to the season, the Eagles have pulled off two straight wins and moved into a tie for the NFC East lead with the Dallas Cowboys. A decent part of that is attributed to their running game, where the combination of Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and Darren Sproles has run for over 100 yards three times this season. Howard will likely be relied upon due to his familiarity with the Vikings. In six career games against Minnesota while with the Bears, Howard had 606 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns.
In the passing game, Carson Wentz has been solid. The fourth-year quarterback has thrown for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions with a completion percentage of 60 percent. However, Wentz has gone four straight games with a completion percentage of under 60 percent, the longest active streak in the NFL. Look for him to frequently target tight end Zach Ertz, who had 10 catches for 110 yards and a score in Philly’s last meeting against the Vikings.
Defensively, the Eagles have one of the most talented and deepest front sevens in football. They were at their best last week, piling up 10 sacks against the Jets. Their run defense is also tops in the league, as Philly allows just 63 rushing yards per game this season. The biggest matchup that determines this game will be this unit against Minnesota’s run-oriented attack.
The Eagles injury report is once again chock-full of key players going into Sunday. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox are out, as is defensive lineman Tim Jernigan, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and running backs Sproles and Corey Clement. The rest of the team should be ready to roll, with only left tackle Jason Peters still considered questionable.
Vikings Aim For Balance
The Minnesota identity is about attacking defenses with the running game, starting with star running back Dalvin Cook. The third-year back already has 542 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season and has run for over 100 yards in four of Minnesota’s five games. But last week against the Giants, quarterback Kirk Cousins gave his team a much-needed new dimension to the offense.
Cousins threw for over 300 yards with a couple of touchdowns last Sunday, moving the ball efficiently and leading four scoring drives in the first half. It’s the first time the Vikings had over 300 yards passing in a game this season, and they will now take on an Eagles team that is depleted at corner. With Philly being great against the run, Cousins will likely have to target leading receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to establish the balanced offense early.
Minnesota is also a team with a strong run defense, ranking ninth in rushing yards allowed per game and fifth in opposing yards per carry. And, also like the Eagles, the Vikings have shown weaknesses against the passing game. They are two evenly-matched teams playing in a game that should be close throughout.
Fortunately for Minnesota, they will enter the game with just one starter, guard Josh Kline, out with an injury. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers is questionable, while everyone else looks to be in line to play on Sunday.
Betting Trends and Pick
The Vikings are 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight games in October and 11-3 ATS in their last 14 home games with a winning road record. Additionally, under coach Mike Zimmer, Minnesota is 31-12-1 ATS, the best ATS percentage by any coach in the Super Bowl era. Meanwhile, the Eagles are 1-4 ATS in their last five games after allowing less than 150 yards passing the previous game.
Despite the betting trends, I like the Eagles in this game. Their front seven has the potential to make the Viking offense one-dimensional. In addition, Minnesota is one of the most penalized teams in the league, and Philadelphia is good enough to capitalize on those mistakes. I’m picking the Eagles to make it three wins in a row, beating the Vikings 27-20.