One in the books, another one Monday night.
We’ll make three predictions you’ll like and three you won’t like about the Eagles-Vikings game.
3 PREDICTIONS YOU WILL LIKE
1. DEFENSE WILL BE MUCH BETTER
It almost has to be, right? The Lions burned the Eagles for 35 points and almost pulled off a huge upset. Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has promised a bunch of “clean up” and a better performance.
The Eagles need a better pass rush, better run defense and they better be ready for Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson.
“We know we gave up 35 points last week and that’s not our standard,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “You’ll take a win but at the end of the day, 35 points is a lot. We can’t keep continue to give up that.”
We’ll give Cox and the rest of the 2022 Eagles roster the benefit of the doubt. Expect a focused, attacking defense Monday.
2. DEVONTA SMITH WILL BE FACTOR
The “Slim Reaper” didn’t have a catch against the Lions and was targeted only four times.
After hearing a week’s worth of criticism and chatter, the Eagles are likely to hit Smith with an early pass to get him into the flow.
With Smith and A.J. Brown, the Eagles have a pair of receivers that could be among the league’s best. “I know you all see him with the dark visor … And he just look like a swole Batman,” cornerback Darius Slay said about Brown. “You can all not tell me he don’t look like a swole Batman.”
Slay also described Smith and wide receiver Quez Watkins with the Batman theme.
“DeVonta is a skinny Batman. Quez is a fast Batman,” Slay said. “So we got three Batmans on a team: one swole, one skinny, one fast.”
Three Batmans sound difficult to defeat.
3. EAGLES WIN
The Eagles have built-in advantages. They are playing their home opener, on national television on Monday night. Emotions will be through the roof and expect the Eagles to ride that wave.
But remember, the Vikings held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to seven points last Sunday.
“If we’re going to be good, we gotta be able to beat a team like this,” Cox said. “Play really good against a team like this because that’s on the way.”
Agree with Fletch. Eagles win it, 30-17.
3 PREDICTIONS YOU WON’T LIKE
1. VIKINGS RIDE RUN GAME TO VICTORY
When the Vikings looked at the Eagles-Lions tape — and saw D’Andre Swift running for a career-high 144 yards — they probably inserted a few more running plays.
It was stunning to watch Detroit run so freely against the Eagles, who missed tackle after tackle. Should that happen again, an upset would be brewing.
Dalvin Cook comes off three consecutive seasons of at least 1,135 yards rushing. Expect the Vikings to run him until the Eagles show they can stop him.
2. JUSTIN JEFFERSON
Can one of the NFL’s best receivers lead his team to victory?
Jefferson is an All-Pro receiver, in his third year in Minnesota. Already, he has defenses carving out special coverage to stop him — without much success.
“I’ve been watching tape of Justin Jefferson since he’s been in the league,” Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said.
“Amazing dude. Great route-runner. Strong after the catch. Strong finish. Playmaker. He makes plays. He’s a different breed.
“He’s one of the best players on their team, so they’re going to find a way to get him the ball. I think they do a great job of scheming everybody up to get the ball.
“They have a great running back [Cook], they got [Adam] Thielen … being Thielen, still doing what he needs to do to get the job done. You got Kirk [Cousins] throwing the thing, so they do a lot of good things, so we got to be ready to go.”
Gannon is understandably impressed with Jefferson.
“He can beat you all different types of ways, so when you’re looking at his game, he’s not a one-dimensional guy,” Gannon said. “He can take the roof off, he can beat you underneath, he can beat you with yards after catch.”
3. VIKINGS WIN
If Minnesota wins, it will be a tight, field-goal game.
If you’re having a bad week, expect Jalen Reagor to bust a big punt return. Last week, he had one return for seven yards against the Packers. Reagor didn’t play any snaps in the offense.
“We have to be ready for everything, including Jalen,” Eagles special teams coordinator Michael Clay said.
“He is still a very dangerous returner. You can’t bat an eye at a guy that’s had a punt return for a touchdown.”
If the Vikings win, they will need a big game from Cousins, who can deliver a clutch game. Cousins is 6-3 as a starter against the Eagles — 2-0 with Minnesota and 4-3 with Washington.
Cousins has completed 67 percent of his passes against the Eagles for 2,756 yards and 21 touchdown passes in the nine games.
If Cousins comes through and the Vikings defense slows down the Eagles, give it to Minnesota, 24-21.