Thursday Night Football hasn’t always offered the most exciting matchups, but this year is off to a great start by featuring every participant in the Super Bowl in the first two weeks. After the Kansas City Chiefs let a win slip away in the season opener, the Philadelphia Eagles look to avoid the same fate tonight. Philly hosts the Minnesota Vikings in a repeat of last year’s Week 2 Monday night showdown, when the Eagles won 24-7 behind a suffocating defense.
Minnesota is looking to bounce back after being favored by four points in a 20-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Philadelphia was friendlier to bettors, covering the spread by 3.5 points in a 25-20 tie in New England. If you’re a bettor who subscribes to the zigzag theory, your money will be on Minnesota. However, betting blindly based on the previous week’s results will not be profitable in the long run.
Neither team played to its potential in Week 1, but the Eagles found a way to win. Despite the lackluster performance, Philadelphia finds itself a 6.5-point favorite for Thursday night’s game against Minnesota. Can the Eagles duplicate last season’s comfortable victory? Here are the main matchups that bettors should focus on before betting on tonight’s game.
Can the Eagles pass defense stop Kirk Cousins from exploiting the middle?
Much of the handicap of this game is predicting how well both teams will overcome their injuries.
On Minnesota’s side, the offensive line is banged up. It’s not ideal to be hobbled when you’re facing a defensive front that racked up 70 sacks a season ago. Philly’s defense could only get to Mac Jones twice last week, but both sacks came in the fourth quarter as the Eagles’ victory began to be in jeopardy. That leaves bettors to decide how much the game script affected the Eagles’ pass-rushing performance in Week 1.
If Cousins has time, expect him to exploit the center of the Eagles defense. Starting LB Nakobe Dean was placed on injured reserve. Additionally, CB James Bradberry was ruled out along with starting safety Reed Blankenship. In last year’s 24-7 win over Minnesota, the Eagles’ outside duo of Darius Slay and Bradberry were able to cover Justin Jefferson and force someone else to step up. The Vikings now have that someone in rookie Jordan Addison, who should be a key part of the offense considering the injuries in the Eagles secondary.
It will be a simple game of who wins first. If the Eagles’ pass rush gets to the house before Cousins can analyze Philly’s compromised secondary, the game will look a lot like last year. If not, it could look a lot like last week for Philadelphia.
Best bets: Philadelphia -6.5 and Over 49
The best way to hide a struggling secondary is a strong pass rush, and I’m betting that will be the prevailing unit in the Eagles’ victory. Eagles first-rounder Jalen Carter looked phenomenal against New England, recording eight pressures in his first NFL start. I’m sure Kevin O’Connell will try to mitigate the interior pressure with lots of designed rollouts, but the edge rushers, especially Haason Reddick, will be waiting for him. The limited preparation time of the short week usually favors the more talented team. Keep in mind that this is a road game against a better team, in their first home game, and the small advantages are starting to pile up in Philadelphia’s favor. Now that the spread has moved below the key number of 7, I have enough value to play against the Eagles as a team.
I also expect Jalen Hurts and the offense to get back to generating explosive plays after a vanilla performance against New England. Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield earned PFF’s fifth-best passing grade in Week 1, courtesy of Minnesota’s secondary. The questionable status of Minnesota edge rusher Marcus Davenport should help the Eagles keep Hurts clean and give him time to get shots down the field. While I think it’s Philadelphia’s pass rush that sets the tone, Minnesota will still have enough offense to push it into the 50s. Get prime time.