The Vikings and Eagles will kick off the second quarter of the 2018 season by squaring off at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon. The game, which features the last two teams standing in the NFC from last season, has drawn the No. 1 crew from FOX – Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews – and time slot – 3:25 p.m. CT – as both teams look to get back on the winning track in Week 5.
Here are five storylines to watch in this week's Vikings-Eagles matchup.
1. Will Vikings defense look different after "mini bye"?
The Vikings defense ranked No. 1 in yards and points allowed last season. So far in 2018, they rank No. 21 in yards allowed and No. 22 in points allowed. The decline is as inexplicable as it is drastic, and head coach Mike Zimmer undoubtedly spent the past weekend diagnosing the problems and formulating a plan with his defensive staff to fix the issues. When the Vikings kickoff against the Eagles on Sunday, it will have been 10 days since their last game, a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in which they allowed 38 points. Will the issues be corrected after the mini bye?
2. DeFilippo faces players he coached, Cousins faces former division foes
There is a profound sense of familiarity for Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterback Kirk Cousins as they prepare to face the Eagles this week. DeFilippo was the Eagles quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, helping the club to a win in Super Bowl LII last season. Cousins battled the Eagles twice per season from 2012-17 as a member of the Redskins, throwing for 300 yards three times, compiling a 12-3 TD-INT ratio and generating a 112.0 passer rating in four games at Lincoln Financial Field. This is a sword that cuts both ways because the Eagles are just as familiar with DeFilippo and Cousins, but there's no question that the knowledge accumulated by the Vikings play caller and quarterback will be helpful during the week of preparation.
3. Eagles next up to try to solve Diggs-Thielen riddle
The Eagles have the confidence and talent in their secondary to neutralize opposing passing attacks. But if they are able to slow down the Vikings dynamic duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, they'll be the first to do so in 2018. Diggs and Thielen have torched opposing defenses this season. Diggs leads the team in touchdowns with three and is averaging 11.5 yards per reception. Thielen is the only player in the NFL this season with 100+ receiving yards in every game. His 40 receptions rank second all-time in NFL history for the most receptions through the opening four games of a season behind only the New Orleans Saints Michael Thomas, who has 42 this season. Thielen also has four consecutive games with five-plus receptions and 100+ yards, tied for the most in Vikings history and tied for the seventh-longest streak in NFL history. Diggs and Thielen are joined by only Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster as wide receiver duos to each rank in the top 15 in receptions in 2018.
4. Last year's elite look to get back in the race
Sunday's game between the Vikings and Eagles is a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game, which was also played at Lincoln Financial Field. This billing is good for fanfare and for television ratings, but it's not how the teams will frame this game. Expect to hear coaches and players on both sides deflect all questions with the "rematch" premise. That was last year, and both teams are looking to get back into the hunt this year. Neither the Eagles nor Vikings are atop their own division and both are coming off losses last week, so they are eager to get back on the winning track
5. Vikings quest to draw better run-pass balance faces stiff test in Eagles defense
The Vikings passing attack ranks fifth in yards per game (327.3) and first in passing attempts (189). Conversely, the Vikings are last in rushing attempts (73) and rushing yards (252), plus they are the only team without a rushing touchdown in 2018. Make no mistake, the Vikings are looking to draw a better balance between their production through the air and on the ground. Their quest to do so faces a stiff test this week because the Eagles boast the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense, an enter the game allowing only 63.8 yards per game on the ground. The good news for the Vikings is the extra few days after a Thursday game should help running back Dalvin Cook and center Pat Elflein recover and feel fresh.