The Eagles open the home portion of their schedule with a Monday Night Football matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. After a roller coaster of a game in Detroit, the Birds get another NFC North opponent in Week 2, this one coming off an impressive win over Green Bay.
How will things unfold? The guys think they know. John was last week’s winner, so he goes first.
John (1-0-0): When we did our preseason picks, I originally had this game in the books as an Eagles win. After Week 1, I’m not so sure. The Eagles defense was shredded in the second half by Jared Goff. What will Kirk Cousins and two star wideouts do against the same D?
It’s going to be a shootout. In a battle of Jalen Hurts vs. Kirk Cousins, the Vikings weaponry will come up big. Whatever the over on receiving yardage by the ‘Sota Pop (trademark pending) combo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen may be, it doesn’t seem like you’d ever want to take the under.
If the Eagles win, it’ll be Darius Slay and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who coax turnovers from Minnesota’s pass attack. Jordan Davis can also come up big. His potential to slow down Dalvin Cook is an underappreciated story to this game. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to turn the tide.
In a game where the local media will focus on the return of Jalen Reagor, it’ll be another former Eagle who steals the spotlight. When he wore midnight green, Jordan Hicks was an impact player when healthy. He had 14 tackles last week and he is poised to be a constant threat in this game, a disappointing home opener. Vikings 34, Eagles 31.
Offensive Standout: Justin Jefferson
Defensive Standout: Jordan Hicks
Joe (0-1-0): I’m not accustomed to going second so early in the season. It does, however, provide me the opportunity to have a laugh at John’s assertions (but not at his puns).
What my partner in pod has failed to realize, or at least factor into his thinking, is that Kirk Cousins is not a good quarterback. Not to bring baseball into this, but as analytics have grabbed the sport by its collective athletic supporter, the concept of a “replacement-level player” has come to the forefront; i.e., the “Wins Above Replacement” stat is designed to show how much a player contributes to his team over and above what an easily-available, low-cost replacement would provide.
I bring this up because in an NFL context, I’ve always thought of Cousins as that kind of guy. Yes, he has made roughly a kajillion dollars in his career, but there is nothing I’ve ever seen out of him that makes me think he’s a guy you would ever be concerned about your team taking on in a big game. In fact, I could be wrong, but I don’t think he’s ever even played in the Divisional Round of the playoffs (Editor’s Note: he did, in 2019). And this is the guy who once signed the highest-paying contract in league history? I think they ought to call the football version of the stat Wins Above Cousins, Kirk (WACK).
He does have some good receivers and Jalen Reagor, though.
This game is going to come down to two things: one, can the Eagles assert themselves and impose their will offensively? And two, while acknowledging that Jefferson and Thielen are going to get theirs, can the defense make enough tackles to prevent them from getting into the end zone more than once?
The answer to the first part is yes. Playing at home in front of a crowd that will have had a few hours to get lubed up before a game they’ve been waiting for for months will provide a boost, and I think that will be felt most by the lines on both sides of the ball. The offensive line will key a 150-plus yard rushing night for the Eagles, and will provide Jalen Hurts the time he needs to settle in and make throws.
On the other side, the Eagles will get to Cousins, and while he’s going to make a play or three thanks to the guys at his disposal, you’re going to see a fair number of shots of him doing the “angry quarterback tearing off one side of his chin strap while yelling something profane after getting sacked on third and four” thing over the course of the night.
Of course, John’s right; this defense allowed Jared Goff, who is probably worse than Cousins, to lead a near-comeback a week ago. But we all expect this unit to be good, and good defenses don’t get punked by mediocre quarterbacks two weeks in a row.
The Eagles could lose on Monday night. Jalen Hurts could have plenty of time in the pocket and still throw behind guys on screen passes. The defense could treat Justin Jefferson like he’s covered in Crisco.
They might. He might. They might. I don’t think they will. Eagles 24, Vikings 14.
Offensive Standout: Miles Sanders
Defensive Standout: Darius Slay