MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After righting the ship last week against the New York Giants on the road, the Vikings now welcome an NFC East foe to U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town.
There is plenty of recent history between these two teams with the Eagles dominating Minnesota in the 2018 NFC championship game en route to a Super Bowl. The Vikings got their revenge last season winning 23-21 in Philadelphia. This season, both teams enter the contest at 3-2 and are vying for playoff position in the NFC.
Each team has had their struggle points this season. For the Vikings, it has been the up-and-down play of their quarterback Kirk Cousins. For the Eagles, injuries have been a limiting factor on both sides of the ball with the secondary particularly banged up. Who should be favored in this matchup? We asked CBS Miami sports anchor Mike Cugno to make a pick for the game and he is rolling with the home team due to the dominant ground game.
“I like the Vikings. As long as the Vikings can control their run game with Dalvin Cook, one of the leading rushers this season going into Week 6,” said Cugno. “And it seems like their receivers are finally getting happy, with Kirk Cousins spreading the ball out a little bit more.”
Cugno also points out that the Eagles win over Green Bay could just have easily been a loss as it took an Aaron Rodgers career first, a pick inside the three yard line, for Philly to pull off the win. Cook has been nigh unstoppable so far this season, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and over 100 yards per game on the ground. But, he is also doing damage in the passing game as he has already hauled in 21 receptions for 200 yards.
The Eagles defense has been strong against the run allowing opponents just 63 yards per game and an average of 3.2 yards per carry. They rank fourth in rushing defensive efficiency according to Football Outsiders meaning this is a matchup of strength on strength. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has shown he would prefer to run the football first and pass second so far this season. Cook is certainly the most impressive running back the Eagles will have faced to this point so it remains to be seen if they can be similarly effective against a strong running game.
But, even if Cook is effective, the Vikings might find more success through the air as the Eagles are very injured in the secondary with Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox both out for this game and Jalen Mills and Crevon Le’Blanc yet to play a game this season. Rasul Douglas has been solid in coverage but opposite him is either Sidney Jones, who is dealing with a hamstring injury of his own, or Craig James who was on the practice squad before being signed to the active roster before the Green Bay game. Orlando Scandrick, signed as a free agent prior to last week’s game against the Jets, is the primary slot corner and while effective last week, it remains to be seen how good he is when tested by a strong set of receivers.
The Vikings certainly have those. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are two of the better receivers in the game. Cousins has yet to find a rhythm with them in the vertical passing game, but against the Eagles injured group, it could be the perfect opportunity to find that groove.
Heading into the game, the oddsmakers have pegged the Vikings as three point favorites in front of their home fans. Kickoff Sunday is set for 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.