Points on the Purple: Vikings try to snap out of funk
LIMBECK: Well Captain Purple, a lot has changed since the Vikings played the Eagles in Philadelphia last January in the NFC Championship Game. Both teams were riding high going into that game and the Vikings dropped an infamous 38-7 contest and the Eagles went on to win their first Super Bowl title, in Minnesota no less. Now heading into Week 5 of this season, both teams are struggling to recapture the magic from a year ago. The Eagles are an average 2-2 while the Vikings aren’t even that. Minnesota takes a 1-2-1 mark into Sunday’s showdown, again in Philadelphia. The Eagles fans were the opposite of friendly to Vikings fans a year ago. If I’m a Vikings fans, I stay clear of Philly this time around.
FELDMAN: You don’t need to be a Vikings fan to steer clear of Philadelphia. That’s a good recommendation for anyone. If you insist upon going there, keep a bag of AA batteries at your disposal so you can at least fire back. As for the teams on the field, we can throw out last year’s NFC Championship Game. This week isn’t about revenge or replaying last January’s debacle. It’s about two teams that need a big win and, perhaps more importantly, need to play well on both sides of the ball.
LIMBECK: Both teams will have different starting quarterbacks from last year’s meeting. The Vikings have added Kirk Cousins, who used to face the Eagles twice a year when he was a division rival with Washington. The Eagles have Carson Wentz back in their lineup. He suffered an ACL injury last year and had to watch backup Nick Foles lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl title. It seems unlikely that Wentz can play as well as Foles did against the Vikings last season. But then again, this Vikings defense has been a mess. What the heck is wrong, Captain Purple? Last year the Vikings defense was the best in the league (although it was exposed against the Eagles). This season the Vikings have given up a ton of big plays and a average of 27.5 points.
FELDMAN: Their best pass rusher is gone, for who knows how long. Their best cornerback doesn’t look healthy when he is on the field. Their second-best corner can’t stay healthy enough to be effective, either. And former first-round draft pick Anthony Barr looks like someone plugged him into a USB drive and replaced his “Pro Bowl Linebacker” file with a “play like Marvin Mitchell” chip (yes, Mitchell actually started 10 games for the Vikings in 2013. Google him. Or don’t).
LIMBECK: Missing defensive end Everson Griffen doesn’t help, but the unraveling of the defense is the biggest mystery of the Vikings. Almost every key player from a year ago returned and elite defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was even added. Coach Mike Zimmer might have touched on something when he said that perhaps he was over-coaching the unit. Right now Zimmer just needs to get his guys lined up, guard the player they are supposed to an make plays. It seems the Vikings defensive players need to think less and start flying to the ball and make plays. The Vikings offense on the other hand has been pretty solid, except for the running game.
FELDMAN: That’s the unfortunate thing about the way the defense is playing: It’s overshadowing an incredible start by the Vikings’ passing game. Cousins has played like an $84 million QB, aside from the Buffalo game, when the whole team played like a heap of buffalo chips. And Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs continue to put on a clinic. The O-line has held up amazingly well for Cousins, but has flattened like a snow fence when it comes time to run the ball. Dalvin Cook can’t be counted on to make every single rushing yard on his own, and no other back is capable of making anything behind this line in its current state.
LIMBECK: The Vikings would appear to be the more desperate team heading into this game. A 1-3-1 mark and the team could be in trouble in the NFC North Division. The Eagles are in what appears to be a weaker division in the NFC East. I think to win this game the Vikings have to find a way to slow the Eagles passing attack. Getting a running game going would also help. The Minnesota defense has to snap out of it’s funk at some point right? Maybe this week: Vikings 24, Eagles 23.
FELDMAN: Philly is a tough place to try to snap out of a funk. The Vikings’ defense doesn’t look comfortable or confident and there’s little reason to believe the O-line can get any kind of a running game going. If the Vikings are to win, it’s going to be on the arm of Cousins and the hands of Thielen and Diggs. Those three won’t be enough this week, though: Eagles 27, Vikings 21.