The Minnesota Vikings head to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in the second game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader. Both teams entered the year as second-tier NFC contenders, but they have seen their odds shorten after impressive Week 1 victories. The Vikings' unveiling of their new offense met all preseason expectations in a 23-7 route of the Green Bay Packers. WR Justin Jefferson, a popular bet to record the most receiving yards this season, exploded for 182 yards and two touchdowns against the Green Bay secondary.
Minnesota wasn't the only offense to showcase its offseason upgrades. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts connected with newly acquired WR A.J. Brown 10 times for 155 yards as Philadelphia put up 35 points in its win over Detroit. Brown and Jefferson were PFF's top-graded wide receivers after the opening week. Now they face each other, with Philadelphia positioned as a slight -2.5 point favorite at BetMGM with a total of 50.5. As much as I expect both offenses to find success, betting overs of 50 or above hasn't paid off so far. Out of six games, only two have gone over the total, and they were both games featuring the Arizona Cardinals. So my best for Monday night's matchup is for the Eagles to cover the short number. Here are three reasons they will get the job done in front of the home crowd.
The Vikings are vulnerable in the secondary
After Week 1, the Vikings and Eagles offenses ranked second and third in EPA per play. So this game will come down to which defense can make stops, and that's where Minnesota falls short. The Vikings' top two cornerbacks struggled in coverage last season, grading outside the top 40 with PFF grades of 67 and 61. While third-year cornerback Cameron Dantzler showed some improvement against the Packers, Patrick Peterson is on the decline. His coverage grade of 50.5 last week ranked 94th in the league. However, the Packers' poor play on the offensive line and the wide receivers' inexperience prohibited the Packers from making Minnesota pay the price for its leaky secondary in Week 1.
The Eagles, on the other hand, are strong in both areas. A.J Brown and DeVonta Smith will be able to separate consistently, helping Hurts continue his promising start to the season. On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia has solid cornerback play on both sides with Darius Slay Jr. and newly acquired James Bradberry. Bradberry was targeted six times in his first game as an Eagle. He only allowed one catch and returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown. Slowing Jefferson will be difficult, but Philadelphia is the defense more likely to get critical stops.
Scoreboards don't tell the whole story
Teams are never as good or bad as they look in Week 1. The Eagles' defense took a lot of heat for allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns and allowing Detroit to close the gap from a 17-point deficit to a 3-point game. When filtering out garbage time, the Eagles' defense had a success rate of 38.6%, better than all but seven teams. While Minnesota deserves a ton of credit for its performance against Green Bay, that is likely the worst version of the Packers we will see all year. These dynamics behind each team's first game make Minnesota a little overvalued and Philadelphia undervalued.
Are the Vikings ready for prime time?
Kevin O'Connell has rightfully received significant support in the Coach of the Year market, moving his odds from +1400 to +800 after his first victory as coach of the Vikings. However, having your first road game on Monday night is challenging for any first-time head coach. We saw how it impacted the Broncos' Nathaniel Hackett in Seattle. Overall, rookie head coaches have done well ATS in their first road games, but the majority of the success is from bad teams covering as big underdogs. Unfortunately, that's not what we have here in Minnesota.
Since 2017, first-time head coaches are only 2-5-1 ATS in their road debuts when they are favorites or underdogs of 3.5 points or less. Last year in Week 2, three rookie head coaches (Dan Campbell, Arthur Smith, David Culley) went on the road for the first time and lost by 18, 23, and 10 points. "Prime Time" Kirk Cousins already has a reputation for underachieving under the lights, so it's fair to say it's a more difficult spot for O'Connell than your typical Sunday game.
Best bet: Philadelphia (-2.5)
Philadelphia head coach Nick Sirianni has been in this spot before after navigating the Eagles to the playoffs last season. While his experience will be a positive factor, my bet on Philadelphia is based on the Eagles being a more complete team with advantages in key areas. The Eagles made significant offseason acquisitions to improve their defense on all three levels, which will be the difference in a game featuring two high-powered offenses. The Eagles have the weapons to exploit the Vikings' weaknesses, and their offensive line should protect Hurts long enough to shred Minnesota's defensive backfield. Entering the season, the Eagles were the higher rated team in the betting market, and I didn't see anything in Week 1 that required a significant adjustment. Anything under a field goal is a bet for Philadelphia.
Stats provided by PFF.com, teamrankings.com, rbsdm (SR based off 90/10 WP).