The Philadelphia Eagles will play their home opener on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, as both teams look to start the 2022 campaign with a 2-0 record.
The Eagles won a wild game in Detroit on Sunday by a final score of 38-35. Despite the win, it feels like the fanbase is largely uneasy right now after nearly blowing a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter, largely due to poor defense in the second half. Jonathan Gannon has received a bevy of criticism this week similar to what he received throughout the first half of last year – that the play calling tends to be too vanilla and conservative, particularly on third down. I am not going to completely dive into what I think about these criticisms, but the one thing I will say is I think the frustration with Gannon is overshadowing what the Eagles accomplished on Sunday. During a weekend where a lot of heavy favorites lost (or tied), the Eagles went into what was practically a playoff environment at Ford Field and largely controlled the game for three quarters, and then closed the door with some beautifully executed four-minute offense, including a gutsy fourth and one conversion from the 40 yard line. Sure, it’s “just the Lions”, but there were worse teams who won in Week 1, and they finished business at the end of the day.
With that being said, the Eagles defense is going to have to play a lot better on Monday night if they want to beat the Vikings. While I think Detroit’s offensive weapons are underrated, Minnesota’s are on a whole other level. When Dalvin Cook is healthy, he is one of the most explosive halfbacks in the league. They also have one of the better receiving duos in the NFL, of course led by third-year superstar Justin Jefferson. Once upon a time, the Eagles passed on him in the draft, yadda yadda yadda, he is in Minnesota, and he is really good. The Vikings offensive line is completely homegrown (all five starters are top 60 draft picks from each of the past five drafts), and Kirk Cousins, while certainly an empty stats magnet with a lack of big wins on his resume, is surgically accurate and highly productive when he gets protection. The Packers were unable to really pressure Cousins at all on Sunday, which allowed him to just sit back and fire away to Jefferson. Jefferson is capable of getting open against anyone and from any alignment, so the Eagles absolutely need to collapse the pocket and make Cousins uncomfortable, or he and Jefferson are going to carve up the secondary.
Defensively, I entered the year thinking the Vikings left a lot to be desired, but they dominated the Packers, and were a huge reason Aaron Rodgers looked atrocious. Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith look like a great pairing of edge rushers, and even former Eagle Jordan Hicks got in on the sack party on Sunday. Still, this is definitely the weaker of the two units, and the Eagles receivers need to win their matchups against this unspectacular Vikings secondary. I would imagine Nick Sirianni will make it a priority to get both DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins their first catches of the season on Monday night, and A.J. Brown might need another dominant showing to keep pace with the Vikings offense. Additionally, Jalen Hurts can not be running the ball 17 times like he did in Detroit. While several of those were clutch, that is just not sustainable for a quarterback over a full season. Hurts’ running should absolutely still be used as a weapon, but they need to find other ways to consistently move down the field. Hurts is strong, but he is not exactly built like Derrick Henry. He can not be getting hit 20 times per game.
This is a tough matchup. The Vikings are a good team that is feeling confident after a comfortable win against their biggest rival. Lincoln Financial Field is going to be juiced for the primetime home opener, which I think could lead to a slow start for Minnesota’s offense, similar to what happened in last year’s home opener against the 49ers. However, I had this penciled as a loss even before the season started, and on the whole the Vikings looked more impressive than the Eagles last week. This is the first time Justin Jefferson is playing against the Eagles since they passed on him in the draft, and I have a feeling he has another big performance coming up. An exciting game that comes down to the last couple possessions, but the Vikings eke out a win and move to 2-0.
Prediction: Vikings win 23-21, Vikings +2