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Vikings: 3 keys to defeating the Philadelphia Eagles

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a touchdown pass in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New Orleans Saints. Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a touchdown pass in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New Orleans Saints.

Updated: October 13, 2019 12:50 PM

1. Have Kirk Cousins play with "an edge"

Kirk Cousins responded to the criticism about his play with his best game of the season against the Giants. Cousins completed 22-of-27 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings win against New York. He admitted this week that he plays better when he has a chip on his shoulder.

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"There's no doubt I play better when I have an edge to me, when that guy who yelled 'You like that!' comes out," Cousins said on his "Under Center" podcast. "The last week has brought that guy out a little bit in me. There's some fire there and some edge."

Cousins will have a good reason to be fired up on Sunday against the Eagles, too, after Eagles linebacker Zach Brown blasted him on Friday.

"Cousins, I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball," Brown told ESPN.com's Tim McManus. "For me, that's probably the weakest part of their offense is him. Everything else is good. They've got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers. You just want them to pass the ball. You want Kirk Cousins to get it in his hands."

Cousins was excellent in the Vikings 23-21 win at Philadelphia last season - completing 30-of-37 passes for 301 yards and one touchdown. He could feast on an Eagles secondary that will be without cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

2. Have red zone success

Sunday's winner might very well come down to which team can punch the ball into the end zone rather than settle for field goals.

Philadelphia has turned 68.42% of their red zone trips into touchdowns this season which is the sixth best efficiency in the NFL. The Vikings defense has also been great inside the 20-yard line giving up touchdowns on just 46.15% of their opponents red zone opportunities.

The Vikings will need to keep a close eye on Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert who are major red zone threats.

"They’re probably two of the best packages as far as two tight ends that can really do a good job of blocking and also being able to go down the field and make plays," Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said on Thursday. "They’re both good receivers coming off the line of scrimmage and understanding what they ask them to do as far as protection and those types of deals. We’ve got our work cut out for us this week as far as matching these two tight ends."

The Vikings offense and Eagles defense are also evenly ranked in their red zone efficiencies with Minnesota's offense converting 60% of their red zone trips to touchdowns (#12 in the NFL) and Philadelphia's defense holding teams to a 50% efficiency (#11 in the NFL).

3. Vikings' offensive line needs to hold up against Eagles' defensive line

The Vikings' offensive line will be without starting right guard Josh Kline with a foot injury on Sunday so Dakota Dozier will get the start. 

The Eagles front four is among the league's best. Philadelphia leads the NFL in run defense allowing only 63 yards per game on the ground (Vikings are #9 at 88.2). The Eagles can also get to the passer as evidenced by their 10 sacks last week against the Jets.

"They have really good players and I think the scheme is sound," Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said about the Eagles defense. "It’s an attacking style. They get off the ball. They tackle well. They play with great effort and then the players, you could name every single one of them, honestly. I think Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, what they bring to the table is really a special group."

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