The title of being the last unbeaten team in the NFL belongs to the Minnesota Vikings, which is the biggest surprise of the season thus far. They’ve done it with outstanding defense and an efficient offense, which doesn’t turn the ball over. It’s still early in the season, but the Vikings certainly look like Super Bowl contenders.
They’ll get another test this week when they face the Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m. ET on FOX), who are coming off of back-to-back losses to the Lions and Redskins. Carson Wentz has taken a bit of a step back in recent weeks, but that was to be expected given the way he started his career.
While this certainly will be a test for the Vikings, it will be an even bigger challenge for Wentz. He’ll have to step up if the Eagles want to win this game, but it won’t be easy. Here are three reasons the Vikings will beat the Eagles on Sunday.
Sam Bradford knows Philadelphia’s defense
Earlier this week, Doug Pederson said the idea that Sam Bradford knows Philadelphia’s offense is “overrated.” He might very well be right, given that teams don’t always unleash their full playbook until the regular season, but there’s no question Bradford has a competitive edge having spent the offseason and preseason in the Eagles’ system. Not only can he help the coaching staff diagnose plays and prepare them for Philadelphia’s tendencies, but he has a good understanding of the Eagles’ Wide-9 front and 4-3 defense. After all, he did practice against them almost every day in training camp. That’s not to say Bradford’s knowledge of the Eagles’ game plan will be the deciding factor in this game, but it will undoubtedly help – regardless of what Pederson says. He knew the playbook like the back of his hand, just as Carson Wentz does now. He understands what the Eagles like to do defensively and should be able to use that to his advantage, at least slightly. Not to mention, Philadelphia’s defense has sputtered in recent weeks against the Lions and Redskins.
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Carson Wentz hasn’t faced a defense like this one
Here’s where the Eagles’ first five opponents rank in total defense: 30th, 13th, 29th, 26th, 22nd. Here’s where the Vikings’ defense ranks: second. You won’t hear a single person out there say Carson Wentz hasn’t played extremely well thus far, but you’d be foolish to acknowledge the level of competition he’s faced. He’s been fortunate to see lesser defenses to start his career, but Wentz could be in for a rude awakening on Sunday.
The Vikings are going to cause serious problems for the rookie, and not just with their pass rush. Their secondary is arguably the best in football, and it’s going to force Wentz to throw into tighter windows than he’d like to. He simply hasn’t seen a cornerback group like this one, which boasts Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn, Terrance Newman and Trae Waynes. The only shutdown corner Wentz has faced is Josh Norman, and he struggled throwing his way.
Now he’ll have to face four very good cover men when the Vikings go with their dime package. The Vikings are also among the best teams when it comes to forcing turnovers, having taken the ball away 12 times (second in the NFL). Wentz hasn’t been turnover-prone through five weeks, but he could make a handful of crucial mistakes on Sunday.
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Minnesota’s pass rush will create problems for the Eagles’ offensive line
The Vikings have played just five games this season yet they have 19 sacks – No. 3 in the NFL. Only the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills have more sacks, but they’ve also played one additional game. Additionally, they’ve forced the most yardage lost by sacks (145). Minnesota’s pass rush is relentless as it comes from a variety of spots on the defensive line. Everson Griffen, Brian Robinson and Danielle Hunter lead the team with four sacks each, followed by defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who has three. Because of Minnesota’s ability to get pressure on quarterbacks off the edge as well as up the middle, the Eagles will have trouble protecting Wentz across the board. Their especially weak spot will be at right tackle where Halapoulivaati Vaitai is taking over for the suspended Lane Johnson. He’ll see Robinson line up across from him fairly often, who is difficult to stop in one-on-one assignments. To make matters worse, the Vikings can keep he and Hunter fresh by rotating them in and out of the lineup. Mike Zimmer will be sure to take full advantage of this weakness.