A weekly look at the Vikings’ upcoming matchup, featuring numbers that shouldn’t give the reader a headache or require an advanced mathematics degree to decipher.
The Vikings enjoyed their bye week after a dominating 31-13 win over Houston; the Eagles failed to score an offensive touchdown in losing their second straight game, 27-20 to Washington.
Including three playoff encounters (all won by the Eagles), this will be the 26th meeting between the two franchises. Minnesota holds a 13-12 edge. The most recent matchup occurred in December 2013 when Matt Cassel’s 382 yards passing and two touchdowns led the Vikes to a 48-30 victory.
In their first four games, the Vikings scored nine first-quarter points. Against Houston, Minnesota put 14 points on the board in the first stanza.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Purple have led by 5.6 points on average over the course of every minute of play in 2016.
Minnesota has held opponents scoreless in the third quarter through five games.
Don’t Get Cocky
Football Outsiders gives the Vikings the best chance to make the playoffs (94.8 percent) and win the Super Bowl (18.2 percent).
In their first three games of the season, the Vikings averaged 14.3 first downs. Minnesota recorded 13 first downs in the first half alone versus Houston.
Minnesota boasts an NFL-best 2.2 per-game turnover margin; the Eagles are third at 1.2.
The Eagles were flagged 13 times for 114 yards last week. The Vikings weren’t much better in their last outing. Minnesota had nine penalties for 97 yards against the Texans.
This week, of course, can be called the “Bradford Bowl,” considering the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings a week before the season. So far, Sam Bradford has been well worth the 2017 first-rounder and 2018 conditional pick the Vikings swapped for him. Bradford has completed 88 of 125 passes (70.4 percent) for six touchdowns and no interceptions while recording career-highs in quarterback rating (109.7) and yards per attempt (7.9).
His performance is even more remarkable considering the injury-plagued Minnesota offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, the line is giving up a league-worst 2.71-second average time to sack. Yet Bradford has excelled under pressure. Pro Football Focus calculates that he’s been pressured 35.6 percent of the time and has compiled a league-best 108.6 rating in those situations. Against Houston, Bradford had a 144.2 rating on his dozen passing attempts under pressure. Overall, Pro Football Focus analysis reveals that Bradford has thrown just one “interceptable” pass, which is a huge reason the Vikings offense hasn’t turned the ball over in its first 304 snaps of the season. Interestingly, the Bradford target with the highest catch percentage (for players with more than seven receptions) is Adam Thielen, who has snagged 20 of 25 passes thrown his way (80 percent) and is averaging 13.6 yards a catch.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Carson Wentz succeeded Bradford as the Eagles’ quarterback. After his first four starts, Philly fans had September’s offensive rookie of the month ticketed for Canton. Reality hit last week, though, when Wentz completed just 11 of 22 passes for 179 yards in the loss to Washington. Pressure played a major role in his performance, according to Pro Football Focus. On his 13 dropbacks under pressure, he completed 3 of 8 passes for 34 yards (4.3 yards per attempt). When not pressured, he went 8 of 14 for 145 yards (10.4 yards per attempt).
For the year, Wentz has completed 102 of 157 passes (65 percent) for 1,186 yards (7.6 per attempt) with seven touchdowns and one interception. His primary targets have been wide receiver Jordan Matthews (22 catches on 37 targets for 344 yards and two TDs) and slippery veteran running back Darren Sproles (15 receptions on 18 targets for 187 yards and a touchdown).
Overall, the Eagles offense is averaging 338 yards a game, good for 21st in the league, and 5.5 yards a play, which ranks 18th. They run the ball 44.95 percent of the time and are averaging 4.1 yards a clip. Their leading rusher is Ryan Matthews, who has 206 yards on 53 carries (3.9 per attempt).
Licking Their Chops
The Eagles offensive line had major problems last week versus Washington. Wentz faced considerable pressure and was sacked five times. The weak link was rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, subbing for the suspended Lane Johnson. Pro Football Focus aptly described the difference between the two: Johnson surrendered five pressures in 275 snaps this season; Vaitai gave up five in just 29 pass-blocking attempts against Washington.
The Purple People Eaters, owners of 19 sacks, will look to exploit Vaitai’s inexperience. The consistent pressure applied by the front four is a main reason the Vikings are considered the NFL’s best defense. The Vikes lead the league in opponent points per game (12.6) and opponent touchdowns per game (1.4). Minnesota is giving up 287.6 yards a contest (77.8 rushing and 209.8 passing), which is second in the NFL. The Vikings are surrendering an NFL-low 5.2 yards per pass attempt and have intercepted seven passes. The past two games, Minnesota has been especially stingy on third down, allowing just three conversions in 25 attempts.
Can this be the week the Vikings’ running game comes alive? It will if the Eagles play like they did last Sunday against Washington, which rushed for 230 yards. Entering the weekend, Washington was averaging only 80 yards a game on the ground. Philadelphia is now 29th in the league, giving up 4.8 yards per rushing attempt.
Minnesota is the NFL’s worst team in terms of yards per carry (a paltry 2.5). However, the Vikings haven’t given up on the run. Their percent of running plays (46.45) ranks sixth. One of these weeks, Jerick McKinnon (3.1 yards a carry) and Matt Asiata (2.9) have to find some running room, right?
Overall, the Eagles defense has been fairly stingy. Philadelphia is fourth in scoring defense (15.6 points a game), fifth in opponent touchdowns per game (1.8) and sixth in yards per game (312). The unit has 13 sacks and four interceptions.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Minnesota has a 57 percent chance of beating Philly.
WhatIfSports.com‘s NFL simulation engine had the Vikings winning 71.8 percent of the 501 simulated matchups versus the Eagles. The average score was 24-15.null