In Minneapolis the Birds face the Vikings; Fierro predicts trouble.
Here’s what to look for in Sunday’s Eagles-Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium (1 p.m. on Fox):
Riding their first winning streak (two games) of the season, the Eagles start the first of a three-game road trip in a matchup of 3-2 teams.
They are coming off a dominant defensive effort in a 31-6 romp over the New York Jets in which they allowed just 128 yards and nine first downs while getting three takeaways and 10 sacks.
Their last trip to Minnesota? Their Super Bowl LII triumph in February 2018. This game, however, will be the first one against the Vikings in this stadium.
Shorthanded at some positions because of injuries, the Eagles enter the game with just four available wide receivers, including rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, two tight ends and four cornerbacks — two of whom were signed X off the street.
The combined records of the teams they’ve beaten is 4-10. The teams that have beaten them are a combined 3-5-1.
Quarterback Carson Wentz has struggled at times without his full complement of weapons, and his average of 6.61 yards per attempt is among the worst in the NFL. However, he owns a 10-2 touchdown to interception ratio and an interception percentage (1.1) that’s among the best in the league.
Much like the Eagles, the Vikings are off to an uneven 3-2 start that’s marked by a win over Atlanta, which beat the Eagles, and loss to Green Bay, which lost to the Eagles.
In their most recent game, a 28-20 victory over the New York Giants, they compiled nearly 500 yards of offense with a balanced attack in which Dalvin Cook ran for 132 yards and Kirk Cousins completed 22 of 27 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
Cook (542 yards) is their leading rusher, but Alexander Mattison is averaging 5.6 yards per carry in a complementary role.
Before last Sunday’s game, however, the Vikings seemed to be teetering on the brink of spinning out of control as both of their top wideouts made headlines. Explosive wide receiver Adam Thielen criticized Cousins, who apologized, for not throwing him the ball enough in a 16-6 loss at Chicago, and Stefon Diggs’ truancy reportedly cost him more than $200,000 in fines. This comes after head coach Mike Zimmer fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo midway through last season for ordering Cousins to throw too much.
No matter what, the Vikings have an outstanding defense that will keep them in any game. Even in their two losses, they’ve given up just 37 points total.
But just for good measure, Eagles LB Zach Brown, a former teammate of Cousins’ in Washington, provided this bulletin-board criticism of Cousins.
“I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball,” Brown told ESPN’s Tim McManus after Friday’s practice. “For me, that’s probably the weakest part of their offense is him. Everything else is good. They’ve got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers. You just want them to pass the ball. You want Kirk Cousins to get it in his hands.”
Five Eagles to watch
Nelson Agholor. A normally dependable receiver, Agholor has struggled early on (19 catches, 188 yards), but he still blocks with aplomb and provides all the intangibles. He’s due for a breakout game, and the Eagles need it.
Jason Peters. Their left tackle will have his hands full with Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who has 3.0 sacks and leads the team with 25 quarterback hits.
Sidney Jones. The embattled cornerback was challenged by coach Doug Pederson to push himself a little harder through his injury rehab (hamstring) so he can gain the confidence to play at a high level. But he has to get back on the field first. Jones was a full participant in practice all week, and Pederson said Friday he “fully expects” him to play.
Fletcher Cox. The All-Pro defensive tackle who led the team in sacks last year has none through five games this year. What’s more, Minnesota center Garrett Bradbury is dealing with a shoulder injury. Look out.
Boston Scott. Promoted from the practice squad Friday, this running back will take the place of Corey Clement, who was placed on the injured reserve list with a shoulder injury and become the top punt returner with Darren Sproles (quad) still out.
Five Vikings to watch
Danielle Hunter. The left defensive end will have some tantalizing battles with Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson. Hunter leads the team lead with five sacks.
Eric Kendricks. The brother of former Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, this middle linebacker already has 50 tackles. That means he’s always around the ball and that it might be wise to get a hat on him.
Dalvin Cook. After battling injuries his first two seasons, the third-year back the Eagles were interested in drafting before the Vikings jumped them in 2017 has hit his stride (92 carries, 542 yards, five TDs).
Adam Thielen. This talented receiver makes a living with big plays. He’s averaging 15.5 yards per catch and is their second-leading pass catcher with 20 receptions.
Brian O’Neill. A second-year right tackle, O’Neill will be matched up against Eagles DE Brandon Graham most of the time. The Wilmington, Delaware native was the Vikings’ rookie of the year in 2018. Graham had a career-high three sacks last week.
Eagles: CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), WR DeSean Jackson (abdomen), DT Timmy Jernigan (foot), CB Avonte Maddox (concussion, neck) and RB Darren Sproles (quadricep) are out. WR Nelson Agholor (illness) and T Jason Peters (knee) were limited in practice Friday but are expected to play.
Vikings: LB Ben Gedeon (concussion) and G Josh Kline (foot) are out; LB Kentrell Brothers (wrist/hamstring) is questionable.
The enigma that is Cousins will be put to the test again, and it should be fascinating.
On the one hand, he doesn’t do very well against winning teams (9-21-1). On the other, he’s had some success against the Eagles (5-3).
I’m seeing more of that success Sunday because of the super receivers he has as options and the Eagles’ leaky pass defense. I’m also seeing an Eagles offense that is not consistent enough to win the battle against a defense like Minnesota’s.
Vikings 31, Eagles 26