Here are some interesting stats to munch on with your pre-game wings, cheesesteaks, chips, guacamole and favorite beverage(s):
— This game very well could come down to who performs best on third down. The Vikings finished first in third-down defense (25.2%) this season. The Eagles finished third (32.2%). Opposing quarterbacks had a 59.2 passer rating on third down against the Vikings and 65.7 against the Eagles. The Eagles intercepted nine passes on third down. Only Baltimore had more (10). Seventeen of the Vikings defense’s 37 sacks came on third down.
— The Eagles converted six of 13 third-down opportunities against the Falcons last week. But before that, they were 8-for-35 on third down in the 10 regular-season quarters Nick Foles had played after replacing Carson Wentz. Foles was 5-for-7 for 70 yards on third down against the Falcons. Before that, he was 11-for-27 for 86 yards. Including the Falcons game, just nine of his 34 third-down pass attempts have resulted in first downs.
— The Eagles need to stay in third-and-manageable against the Vikings. During the regular-season, 99 of their 203 third-down opportunities, or 43 percent, were eight yards or more. That was the 10th most third-and-longs in the league. Against the Falcons, just three of their 13 third-down situations were longer than seven yards.
— The Saints converted just two of nine third-down opportunities against the Vikings last week. Drew Brees was 1-for-4 for 5 yards and sacked once on third down. During the regular-season, Brees had the league’s sixth-best third-down passer rating (94.2). He had completed 67.8 percent of his third-down attempts.
— The Eagles defense’s 32.2 third-down efficiency rate was its best since the team’s last NFC Championship Game appearance in 2008. Opponents converted just 10 of 65 (15.4%) third downs of eight yards or more against them.
— Vikings quarterback Case Keenum finished 12th in third-down passing with an 85.8 rating and 63.8 completion percentage. But his rating dropped to 54.5 on third-and-eight or more. Had a 53.6 completion percentage on third-and-long. He only had seven interceptions this season, but four of them came on third-and-eight-plus. He averaged just 5.4 yards per attempt on third-and-eight-plus. Bottom line: Eagles need to get the Vikings in a lot of third-and-longs.
— The Eagles outscored their opponents in the first quarter, 106-48. That was the sixth most first-quarter points scored and the fourth fewest allowed. But in the last four games, they’ve been outscored, 16-14, in the first quarter.
— They scored on their first possession in six of their first 10 games, but just once in the last seven (a touchdown against the Giants).
— The Eagles’ defense has allowed points on their opponents’ first possession just seven times this season. But six of those first-possession scores have come in the last nine games (two touchdowns, five field goals).
— The Vikings have outscored opponents in the first quarter, 77-51, and in the second quarter, 133-67.
The blitz, boss; the blitz
— The Eagles blitzed the Falcons’ Matt Ryan just eight times on 39 pass plays last week. But seven of those eight blitzes came in the second half. Ryan was 3-for-6 for 46 yards and sacked twice when Jim Schwartz sent extra rushers.
— Don’t look for a lot of blitzes from Jim Schwartz today. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum has handled the blitz very well this season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, he threw 13 of his 22 touchdown passes when he was blitzed, which tied the Eagles’ Carson Wentz for the most in the NFL. Keenum was 7-for-9 for 76 yards when the Saints blitzed him last week.
— Nick Foles has completed just 54 percent of his attempts against the blitz, including last week. In 2013, when he had his memorable 27/2 season and put up the third-best passer rating in league history, Foles had a 130.9 passer rating against the blitz. Threw nine touchdown passes and no interceptions. But he had Jason Peters protecting his blind side that year.
Stopping the run
— The Eagles were ranked first in the NFL against the run (79.2 yards per game) this season, but also were run on less than any team in the league because of their knack, at least when Carson Wentz was healthy, of jumping out to early leads and forcing teams to alter their offensive game plans. Their opponents averaged just 21.1 rushing attempts per game. Just two teams – the Cowboys twice, and the Raiders – had more than 25 rushing attempts against them. But they can count on defending the run a lot today. Even though the Vikings finished 23rd in rush average (3.9 yards per carry), they averaged 31.2 rushing attempts per game this season, the second most in the league. They had 29 rushing attempts against the Saints last week even though they averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
— The Eagles have been giving up far too many rushing yards on first down lately. In their first 12 games, they held opponents to 3.0 yards per carry on first down. In their last five: 4.2. Last week, the Falcons averaged 4.4 yards per carry against the Eagles on first down.
Running backs and tight ends
— The Vikings gave up just three touchdown passes to tight ends this season. No tight end had more than seven catches or 76 yards. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz had eight TD catches this season, all of them in the red zone. The Eagles need Ertz to be a factor today.
— The Eagles have given up 25 touchdown passes this season. Ten of them have been to running backs and tight ends, but only three in the last nine games. In those nine games, the Eagles have held opposing tight ends to 29 catches for 271 yards (9.3 yards per catch) and one touchdown.
Zoning in on the red zone
— The Eagles finished first in red zone touchdown percentage (65.5), but were just 1-for-3 in the red zone against Atlanta and 2-for-6 in their last three games. Foles has completed just 12 of 22 passes in the red zone, 3 of 10 in his last nine quarters.
— Red-zone opportunities have been few and far between against the Vikings lately. They finished third in red zone defense (40.0). The Saints had just one red-zone opportunity last week. Opponents have made it to the red zone on the Vikings just six times in the last four games.
— The Eagles finished 20th in red zone defense (55.3). But that number was influenced by their horrible red-zone performance in two particular games against the Seahawks and Rams, when they allowed seven red-zone TDs in seven trips. In their other 15 games, opponents have converted just 44.1 percent of their red-zone opportunities against the Eagles (15-for-34). The Falcons were 1-for-3 in the red zone last week.
This and that
— The Eagles finished fourth in turnover differential (plus-11). The Vikings finished tied for 12th (plus-5). The Vikings had just 14 giveaways, which were the third fewest in the league. The Eagles had 31 takeaways, including 19 interceptions, which were the fourth most in the league.
— The Eagles ran 65.1 percent of their offensive plays with “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) in the regular-season. Used it 71.9 percent of the time in their last seven regular-season games. Against the Falcons last week, they used it 66.7 percent of the time. Foles has an 80.5 passer rating with “11” personnel.
— The Eagles rushed for 96 yards against the Falcons last week, but 76 of it came in the game’s first 18 minutes. After that, they rushed for just 17 yards on 21 carries. Jay Ajayi rushed for 49 yards on his first seven carries, and five yards on his next eight.
— The Eagles finished third in rushing, but have averaged just 98.2 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry in their last six games. In the previous nine, they had averaged 161.9 and 4.7.
— The Eagles averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on first down against the Falcons last week. In their last six games, they have averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on first down. In the previous nine, they averaged 5.2.
— Ajayi rushed for 77 yards on five first-down carries in his first game with the Eagles (v. Denver). Since then, he’s averaged just 3.6 yards per carry on first down. He’s had more than one rushing first down in just three of the eight games he’s played.
Measuring Nick’s throws
— Against Atlanta last week, 20 of Foles’ 28 “aimed” throws (he had 30 attempts, but one was batted and another was a throwaway) traveled six yards or less beyond the line of scrimmage. Six were behind the line of scrimmage. He was 19-for-21 for 179 yards against the Falcons on throws of 10 yards or less.
— Foles has completed just two of 13 throws of 20 yards or more. In his four starts, he’s 1-for-11 on 20-plus yard throws. Nelson Agholor has the most receptions on 20-plus yard throws this season. He has seven. Ertz has five. Alshon Jeffery has been targeted 22 times on deep balls. He has just three catches.
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