The Eagles have two home games remaining against teams who have really disappointed their fans. However, it’s not time to coast. It’s crunch time. The Eagles need to finish their regular season strong to put themselves in the best possible position for the playoffs.
If the Eagles beat the Vikings, they will clinch a playoff spot. Again, it won’t be time to coast. If they get a win against the Vikings and then beat the Cowboys and the Bears lose one of their final two games, the Eagles will get a first-round bye.
There is still a lot at stake for the Eagles and it all starts this week against the Vikings. They need to beat the Vikings, and here are three key match-ups to watch for while they try to get the win.
1. Eagles Secondary vs. Vikings Receivers
With Asante Samuel returning to the lineup last week, I thought the Eagles secondary would have a solid game. However, I was very wrong. Although Samuel played well in his return, the Giants were able to pick apart Dimitri Patterson.
Patterson has been the number one corner for the Eagles while Samuel has been out and has played very well. While he was the main corner, the secondary played poorly but it all came on the opposite side of Patterson. Against the Giants, Patterson was the weak link.
The Vikings will bring in a group of receivers that look similar to what the Eagles saw against the Giants. They have a tall and physical receiver in Sidney Rice who resembles Hakeem Nicks. They also have a speedy receiver in Percy Harvin who resembles Mario Manningham.
Although we don’t know who will start at quarterback for the Vikings, and probably won’t know until minutes before kickoff, it won’t matter if the secondary performs like they did last week.
This Vikings team isn’t as good as many thought they would be, but they still have a lot of talent on offense. Coming into Sunday’s matchup, the Vikings will look to expose Patterson and the secondary the way the Giants did in the first half last week.
2. Michael Vick vs. Vikings Defense
Let’s be real here. Michael Vick is a matchup disaster for every team that has to try to defend him. He’s proven to be the ultimate weapon this season. While in Atlanta, teams could focus on shutting down Vick on the ground because he looked to run often and wasn’t as big of a threat throwing the ball.
This year is a different story. Vick has turned into a pocket passer in the Eagles system, but always has the running card up his sleeve when he needs to use it. We’ve seen Vick get pressured in the pocket but not immediately take off running like he would in the past. When he drops back, he wants to throw the ball first. Running is his last resort.
He’s been great progressing through his reads and isn’t throwing very many interceptions. He has made defensive coordinators have to game plan for his arm first. With the weapons Vick has to throw to and the way he’s been throwing the ball, it’s a scary combination.
On Sunday, the Vikings defense will have a tough task. They will need to make sure Vick can’t throw the ball as he pleases, but also make sure he can’t run all over the field like he did late last week against the Giants.
It’s going to be a challenge, and it’s one that most teams have not found success doing.
3. Eagles Linebackers vs. Visanthe Shiancoe
Although Visanthe Shiancoes numbers are down this year compared to last year, he’s still a very talented tight end.
If you’re an Eagles fan, you know that the Eagles just can’t cover tight ends for some reason. It’s inevitable. Whenever the Eagles find themselves matched up against a top tight end, you have to worry.
Shiancoe is coming off a game where he recorded six receptions. He will look to pick up where he left off. If Brett Favre is unable to play, the Eagles will see Joe Webb. He is a young guy and young quarterbacks love to hit their safety valves often, the tight end and running back.
I’d like to see the Eagles linebackers keep a close eye on Shiancoe and make sure they try to bump him off the line as often as possible. Bumping the tight end off the line disrupts the route and also gives the defensive line more time to get to the quarterback.
Third down will be an important time to watch Shinacoe as we’ve seen the Eagles give up a lot of first downs conversions to teams using their tight end in these situations.