The move of the Vikings-Eagles game to Tuesday night can actually be a good thing in my mind. When I started to write my original game preview for Sunday night I talked about how weird the game might be because of the weather. Mother Nature is the great equalizer. DeSean Jackson is a 4.35 guy on a clean surface, but probably only a 4.60 guy on a snowy surface with a strong wind in his face. Mike Vick and our precision passing attack were not likely to operate cleanly or at a peak level in sloppy conditions. Tuesday night we have a clean field and good conditions. Now the team can focus on the Vikings.
We could have beaten the Vikings on the snowy field, but I doubt we'd have played the kind of football that you want to see this time of the year. Winning is still the most important thing, but with the playoffs approaching you want to play good football. That means being technically sound (blocking well, running good routes, taking good angles to the ball, tackling well, etc.). As much fun as it would have been to watch Vick and the Eagles play in the snow, I think we're better off seeing him and the team on good footing. We saw a lot of sloppy football last week. I think it is important for the Eagles to come out and perform at a high level.
Now let's talk about the Vikings. Minnesota entered the 2010 season expecting to go to the Super Bowl. A lot has happened since then. Coach Brad Childress was fired. Quarterback Brett Favre struggled all year, greatly affected by injuries. He finally missed a start and his backup Tarvaris Jackson got hurt. The team is only 5-9 on the year and has yet to beat a team with a winning record. Tonight rookie Joe Webb will likely make his first-career start.
Sean McDermott and his defense don't have much tape to watch on Webb. They know he is a great athlete. They know he has good size and a strong arm. McDermott will try to confuse Webb as much as he can. The Eagles will attack Webb and try to force him into mistakes. The Vikings know this and will plan accordingly. They will protect him as much as possible and focus on running the ball.
Running back Adrian Peterson missed last week's game with a bad thigh injury, but is expected to play tonight. You can bet he will be the focal point of the game plan. Peterson left, Peterson right and Peterson up the middle. Rookie Toby Gerhart will get his share of carries. The Vikings are going to run those guys all night long. They'll mix in runs to receiver Percy Harvin. Webb will also do his share of running. Video Player : NFL Gameday Preview: Eagles vs. Vikings
The pressure is going to be on the Eagles front seven to play the run well. Peterson can be a dynamic back. Harvin is capable of breaking big plays. Webb showed last week that he can run. He had an impressive touchdown run down the right sideline. The good news is that our guys have played the run well in the last 10 weeks. We're physical up front and really disrupt blocking schemes. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be critical. We get a break in the fact that the Vikings best blocker, guard Steve Hutchinson, is on injured reserve. They've got a rookie in his spot. That is a matchup that Antonio Dixon should win regularly. Center John Sullivan has a problem with shotgun snaps. If he has to worry about helping to block Dixon, that could lead to an erratic snap or two.
We generally tackle well and that will be critical against Peterson. He can plow through defenders when he's at his best. We need multiple defenders around the ball so that if he gets by one guy we've got other people there to slow him down or make the stop.
Keeping the game close will be vitally important for the Vikings. If they fall behind and have to throw the ball more, that will play into McDermott's hands. He can then turn his defense loose and let them really attack Webb. Field position will also be an important factor. We need to pin Minnesota deep as much as possible and force them to go the long field. The Vikings have enough good skill players that I think they'll have some success, but I will be disappointed if they can sustain drives and score points with any kind of regularity. Harvin is dangerous any time the ball is in his hands. Sidney Rice is a very good receiver and big-play weapon. You can have him covered tightly and he'll still find a way to make the grab.
Rookie Kurt Coleman will make his second start at free safety. He played well enough last week, but the Vikings will try to test him. I'm sure they will run a play-action pass and throw deep to Rice at some point, trying to burn a corner and/or Coleman. They can get a big play, a pass interference penalty, or at least stretch the defense to open up some running room. I have confidence in Coleman. I was high on him prior to the draft and he's shown good talent as a role player this year. I expect him to be at least an adequate starter for us. One other defender I'll be watching closely is middle linebacker Jamar Chaney. He's played at a high level in the last couple of games. I'm excited to see if he can keep that up. Stopping Peterson will be a big challenge for Chaney.
Vick and the Eagles offense have a chance to come up with more big plays this week. The Vikings secondary has struggled all year. They don't play the ball well at all. No defensive back has more than two interceptions or six pass breakups. Antoine Winfield is arguably the best tackler in the entire NFL, but lacks the deep speed to keep up with Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Asher Allen is a young corner that is very up and down.
Safety play has also been an issue, against the run and pass. Madieu Williams played a deep ball terribly last week and the Bears got a touchdown out of the play. The week before he took a terrible angle on a run play in the Giants game and gave up a long gain to Brandon Jacobs. Williams suffered a concussion last week and isn't a lock to play, which may or may not be a good thing.
The Vikings defensive line is full of big names, but the players haven't had played up to their previous level. Jared Allen started slow, but has heated up in the last few weeks. Kevin Williams is having arguably the worst year of his career. He's normally a very disruptive force in the middle, but has only one sack this year. Ray Edwards looked like a player on the rise with his showing in the playoffs last year, but he's been slowed by injury. The Vikings only have 24 sacks this year. The Jason Peters-Jared Allen matchup should be fun to watch. Allen is relentless, but Peters has the talent to block him. Center Mike McGlynn is going to get an education as he battles the Williams Wall (Kevin and Pat).
The one group on defense that is playing well is the linebackers. Chad Greenway leads the team in tackles and has an amazing 14 tackles-for-loss. E.J. Henderson is second in tackles and leads the team with three interceptions. Ben Leber isn't making as many plays as those guys, but is still a solid player. The linebackers will focus on shutting down LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek.
I fully expect Vick to go deep several times in this game. We have the speed to burn the Minnesota secondary. They like to play a lot of Cover 2 and Jackson can run right by their safeties if he catches them flat-footed. I think Marty Mornhinweg will have an aggressive game plan. The goal will be to get an early lead and play from ahead. We are the better team so the earlier we get a lead in the game the better off we'll be. We want doubt to start setting in on the minds of the Minnesota players. Those guys have been away from home for several days. They're in the middle of a bad season. It will be hard for them to stay focused if things start to go wrong.
Tuesday night football sounds weird, huh? I guess it is only appropriate for something like this to happen in a season that has been so strange overall. The Eagles players won't be worried about that kind of stuff. They just want to go out and play. They want to win and take another step toward getting one of the top two seeds in the NFC. A win would be great, but I also want to see some good football. We need to start getting in playoff mode. Let's eliminate mistakes, make plays, and look like a playoff team for 60 minutes.