The Vikings had an ideal start to the season in Week 1. But if this team is going to be different from the Vikings of past seasons, they need to seize the momentum and get a clutch second win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s take a look at some things they’ll need to do to stop Jalen Hurts and the Eagles in prime time.
Key #1: Containing Hurts
This key to the game is so obvious it Hurts (Yikes, sorry about that one, I couldn’t resist). As he is known to do, Jalen Hurts tallied runningback numbers against Detroit in Week One. He ran 17 times for 90 yards and a touchdown. With his skillset, we should be expecting plenty of designed runs. He scored on one designed run untouched in the second quarter against Detroit and had several other effective carries within the structure of the gameplan. The Vikings defense will need to focus on containing the out-of-structure plays that Hurts creates by scrambling out of the pocket.
Hurts is an elite talent when it comes to avoiding pressure. The Lions appeared to get through the line plenty in Week 1, but only mustered one sack and five QB hits. On one particular play, the Lions blitzed and got plenty of pressure, but Jalen Hurts still calmly scrambled to convert a third and 15. He looked like a very experienced quarterback, and the Vikings need to be able to contain him. I trust Ed Donatell to give him a variety of looks to try and confuse him, but players will need to play as disciplined as ever. And of course, they can’t afford to miss tackles. Again, this is the obvious key to the game, but with a rushing quarterback like this, there is a much smaller margin for error for a defense when doing their jobs and making tackles.
Key #2: Run Away From The Defense
Having a running game is key for any team in any game. It’s always important to establish that your offense is multi-dimensional, but this is easier said than done, especially against a team that is coming off a great year as rush defenders. The Eagles gave up the fifth-fewest yards per carry last season, and finished 9th overall in total rushing yards allowed. The Vikings need to be strategic with their run game, and set up misdirection runs that will allow Dalvin Cook and Co. the opportunity to get a head start with some open space.
The Lions’ D’Andre Swift had one such carry: he scored a short touchdown on a fourth and one, where he skipped to the outside while the entire Philadelphia defense piled into the middle. They also had some moments where they ran right by the Eagles’ pressure. I think this will be key for the Vikings, and I like it as a moment for Kevin O’Connell and his staff prove that they can outcoach their opponents. Further, obviously, we need to complement the run with the passing game. If we want to see Justin Jefferson with another 180 yards receiving, the offense needs to be balanced.
Key #3: The Other Receivers
The big story was and is Justin Jefferson in the Vikings’ WR room. The Vikings offense (rightfully so) should continue to run through him, but we will still need the other guys to step up. Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn each had three catches against the Packers, but only for a combined 50 yards. I think they will need to be much more involved in this game, and throughout the season, if the Vikings are to keep being an explosive offense.
Both Osborn and Thielen have proven they’ll step up when given the chance and they definitely were factors in plays that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet (see the crossing route that left JJ open and confused). It will fall on Kirk to be ready to look elsewhere on plays where defenses key on Jefferson.
The Vikings’ secondary just may be the most important position group on Monday night. Assuming the front-seven hold their own against the Eagles’ run game, we will need to make them think twice about passing. They are most definitely a run-first team, but we saw last week that they can and will throw downfield.
The addition of A.J. Brown looks brilliant, as he caught 10 balls for 155 yards. Hurts proved that he can be accurate enough when he has time in the pocket, and that means the secondary will need to cover and they will also need to tackle. I am confident they can get pressure, but we talked about the scrambling ability of Hurts, so we can’t rely on that pressure to amount to sacks. The DBs will need to be ready to make some tackles in open space to prevent long gains on the ground and after the catch
Will There Be An Irv Smith Sighting?
Last week we didn’t need him to produce, and I don’t think he warrants an x-factor distinction quite yet. However, I am still excited to see what he can do after he catches a short pass. I’d like to see him get open in short-yardage situations to see what he can do after the catch, and maybe he can help get the defense to cheat up a little bit.
Then, go over the top to “Jettas”. It is a fool-proof offensive game plan. Selfishly, but with much less importance, I would like to see if he’s going to be fantasy-relevant like I thought at the start of the year. It’s hard to predict him to have any usage after last week, but we’ll have to see a few more games before we have an idea of his level of involvement.
For the Vikings, CB Andrew Booth has been ruled OUT. Vikings fans will have to continue to wait to see what kind of an impact their second-round pick can have on this defense. Fellow rookie Lewis Cine was also listed on the report but doesn’t have a game designation, and I think we’ll get to see him for the first time in a meaningful game. The other players listed, Jonathan Bullard and D.J. Wonnum, also didn’t have a designation, and since they played last week I assume they’ll be available and ready.
On the Eagles’ side, there is little of note. The list is relatively long, but it was primarily “non-injury related rest.”
What Worries Me This Week?
I’m a tad nervous about Philadelphia’s ability to run the ball. They had four rushing touchdowns last week, all by different players. One of whom was QB Jalen Hurts, who I mentioned earlier is going to be a challenge to defend. But, honestly? I still think the Vikings are the better team here.
What worries me most is something completely illogical. I remember all too well the week after the Minneapolis Miracle. We were riding high, and we started the NFC Championship game with a touchdown drive to take the lead. And then we disappeared. We went from the highest of the highs to the lowest of the lows, and it felt like all of my Vikings’ fan hardship returning to attack me all over again. Philly ruined our chances of playing in a Super Bowl in Minnesota, and I haven’t forgotten. This may only be a week 2 matchup, but I’m worried because it means more to me than that. And I know we’ve played the Eagles in between the miracle and now, but it’s still too fresh in my mind.
Why Am I Confident We’ll Win?
I’m confident because this Vikings team seems to have the “it” factor, alongside absurdly talented personnel. I think our offense is good enough to score on anybody, and I think our defense can be perfectly solid.
The positive vibes under the new coaching regime reek of a certain level of confidence and drive that I feel has been missing in past years. I’m trying to slow down my expectations because it’s only been one game, but I think a solid win on Monday night can solidify for everyone the notion that this Vikings team is for real.
We are not going to completely stop the run, and Jalen Hurts will probably score on a stupid, broken play at some point in the game. But I think the Vikings will air out the ball at will, and Dalvin will hit the century mark. I predict a game that feels close throughout, but I think a clutch Za’Darius Smith sack, late in the fourth, will allow the Vikings to run down the clock. They’ll finish on top, 27-21.
What is your prediction? Let me know, @Jlime8 on Twitter, or tweet the whole crew at The Daily Skol on Twitter. And be sure to check out all the other great content on Stadium Rant!