Stakes, QBs change for Vikings-Eagles rematch

PHILADELPHIA — This time, it’s Kirk Cousins vs. Carson Wentz.

The quarterbacks and the stakes will be different when the Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) host the Minnesota Vikings (1-2-1) in a rematch of the NFC championship game Sunday.

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Nick Foles led the Eagles to a 38-7 win over Case Keenum and the Vikings last January. The Super Bowl MVP went back to the bench after Wentz returned from knee surgery in Week 3. Keenum went to Denver because the Vikings gave Cousins a fully guaranteed $84 million contract to be the face of their franchise.

Neither team is playing at a championship level right now and both are desperate for a win.

“They’re a great team, record aside,” Wentz said. “We know we’ll get their best, obviously with the way it ended last year.”

Cousins had been successful against the Eagles in seven starts for Washington. He had thrown for 2,122 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions while going 4-3 in those games.

“It’s a great environment, a great place to play an NFL football game on a Sunday afternoon. Great crowd,” Cousins said. “I’ve had my fair share of battles there. Some have come out victorious, some have come out as the loser. It will be a great test for us.”

Some things to watch between the Vikings and Eagles:

FLIP’S FAMILIARITY

Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. He’s quite familiar with Wentz and coach Doug Pederson’s system. The Eagles already beat former offensive coordinator Frank Reich and the Colts in Week 3.

“The same as going against Frank, some of the terminology, some of the calls, maybe hand signals, whatever it may be that he knows,” Pederson said. “Listen, he’s a smart guy, but he’s also preparing his team to get ready to play. I think that’s where his focus is right now this week.

“We’re seeing some of the same things from their offense that we do, and so it’s good for our defense to see. We’re aware of it. It’s a home game, so we can cut down on a lot of the signals, a lot of the verbiage, things like that at the line, and just try to go play.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE

Both teams are struggling on defense. The Vikings had the No. 1 defense a year ago. They’re 21st this season. The Eagles were fourth last year. Now they’re 10th and the secondary has been shredded by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Marcus Mariota in two road losses.

The Vikings are missing three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen. The Eagles lost safety Rodney McLeod.

NO BALANCE

The Vikings are last in the NFL in rushing and Dalvin Cook leads the team with only 98 yards while averaging just 2.7 per carry. The Eagles are first in run defense but poor against the pass. So expect Cousins to throw a ton. Or not.

“It’s important for us to have balance,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “It keeps the defensive line from pinning their ears back all the time. I think it helps the football team overall. We just have to do a better job.”

NO BALANCE II

The Eagles had success running the ball in an overtime loss at Tennessee, gaining 109 yards on 20 carries from backs Jay Ajayi and Wendell Smallwood. But Pederson called 74 percent pass plays.

“We try to be as balanced as we can be and we’re going to play the game that we think needs to be played, and some of it is dictated during the course of the game,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “Coach is as patient a play caller as there is in the running game in this league and really doesn’t deviate from it. … A run call is never very far from the tip of his finger. He’s always thinking about it and conversing with the staff during the course of the game.”

DYNAMIC DUO

Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been unstoppable. Diggs leads the team with three touchdowns and is averaging 11.5 yards per reception. Thielen has 40 catches and is the only player in the league with 100 yards receiving in every game this season. They’re going against a pair of cornerbacks, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, who’ve struggled.

MINNESOTA (1-2-1) vs. PHILADELPHIA (2-2)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE — Eagles by 3

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Minnesota 1-3, Philadelphia 1-3

SERIES RECORD — Eagles lead 14-13

LAST MEETING — Eagles beat Vikings 38-7 in NFC championship game, Jan. 21, 2018

LAST WEEK — Vikings lost to Rams 38-31; Eagles lost to Titans 26-23, OT

AP PRO32 RANKING — Vikings No. 14, Eagles No. 12

VIKINGS OFFENSE — OVERALL (12), RUSH (32), PASS (5).

VIKINGS DEFENSE — OVERALL (21), RUSH (13), PASS (23).

EAGLES OFFENSE — OVERALL (20), RUSH (11), PASS (17).

EAGLES DEFENSE — OVERALL (10), RUSH (1), PASS (19).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Rematch of NFC championship game featuring different QBs for both teams. Kirk Cousins replaces Case Keenum for Vikings. Carson Wentz replaces Nick Foles for Eagles. … Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was Eagles quarterbacks coach last season. … Eagles have won seven of last nine meetings. … Cousins has 1,329 yards passing, 12 TDs, three INTs in four games in Philly while with Washington. … RB Dalvin Cook leads Vikings with only 98 yards rushing and has been in and out of lineup. … Vikings WR Adam Thielen aims to become only third player to start season with 100 yards receiving in five straight games. … Minnesota DE Danielle Hunter has sacks in four straight games. … Vikings S Harrison Smith has 14 tackles and fumble recovery in last two meetings with Philly. … Eagles are 17-3 at home since 2016, including playoffs. … Wentz is 13-2 at home, including nine straight wins. … Eagles rank first in run defense after finishing first last season. … Philly leads NFL in time of possession (34:12). … Eagles TE Zach Ertz‘s 31 catches are first at his position. … Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery had first 100-yard receiving game last week since Dec. 13, 2015 with Chicago vs. Washington. Fantasy tip: Ertz has 15 catches for 185 yards in two games since Wentz returned.