EAGAN, Minn. — The first week of the 2022 NFL season has come and gone, and with it, all of the anticipation and unknowns leading up to the opening kickoff.
The Vikings arrived to the season with plentiful hope and excitement and exited Week 1 with those factors turned up even higher after a 23-7 victory against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.
Now, Minnesota (1-0) will try to carry the momentum over when it visits Philadelphia (1-0) on Monday Night Football. The game will air at 7:30 p.m. (CT) on ABC. The Eagles defeated Detroit 38-35 last week.
"Obviously, a huge week for us. A big opportunity to go to a really tough environment and really a true first test with going on the road," Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said. "They're playing really good football right now, really tough outfit in all three phases, so we've got to have a great, great week of preparation and making sure we're ready to go, handling some different aspects of the plan this week from the noise to obviously, just in general not being in your home environment, so it will be big for our guys."
O'Connell added despite opponents now having 'real tangible evidence' after Week 1, he knows it's more about how his team goes out and executes moving forward.
"If you've built it the right way, it's one of those things where I like to think that our offense is evolving week to week, where it's not so much the plays and the philosophy, but it's the execution level of what we're asking our players to do," O'Connell said. "It's on us to give them a clear plan so when they do execute what we ask them to do well, good things happen. But as always, it's about the process leading up to that and then ultimately, how do we respond if the result isn't exactly what we wanted."
This is the 67th time the Vikings will play on MNF. Minnesota is 31-35 all-time on the series that debuted in 1970. Minnesota has won its past two Monday night matchups, both at Chicago in 2020 and 2021.
The Eagles have played 68 times on MNF and have a record of 38-30. Philadelphia has lost its past two Monday night games.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen said even though it's a prime-time game under the lights, it doesn't change anything.
"In this league, every game's so important. Whether it's at noon, whether it's on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, they're all so important that you have to be attentive, you have to have that extra juice," Thielen said. "Obviously playing under the lights is always a good feeling. Kind of brings you back to those high school days, those big games in front of your community, so you always kind of feel a little extra special under the lights but again, in this league, you have to bring it every week so it can't be any bigger than any other game."
Here is what Sam Thiel, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters of Vikings.com will be watching in Monday's game:
Can the Vikings defense stop Jalen Hurts and the Eagles ground attack | By Sam Thiel
Going into a season with a new defense is tough. Going against a division rival and an elite quarterback who's won back-to-back MVP awards to start that season is even more challenging.
The Vikings defense stood tall, however, against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last week. Minnesota limited Rodgers to 195 yards passing and Green Bay's offense to just 100 total yards in the first half. The Vikings also sacked Rodgers four times and recorded a fumble recovery and an interception.
This week, the Vikings will see a different type of quarterback entirely. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia's third-year quarterback out of the University of Alabama and then Oklahoma, offers a dual-threat ability under center.
"He's more comfortable this year with the system and they are very good with the system," Vikings Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said of Hurts. "It's well coached. They present a lot of problems and challenges. They make you attack the entire field."
Hurts threw for 243 yards on 18-of-32 passing against Detroit last week, and he added 90 yards rushing and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Besides Hurts, the Eagles run game accounted for three of Philadelphia's five touchdowns. Miles Sanders rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries while Kenneth Gainwell added 20 yards on five attempts and Boston Scott had 10 yards on four rushes.
"You know it takes a combination," Donatell said about slowing down Hurts and the Eagles offense. "If you do any one thing all the time they will catch on. But we'll have to be smart with our rush lanes and our attack and we'll have a variety of ways to rush him."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.
Handling the elements on special teams | By Lindsey Young
The Vikings won't have the luxury of an enclosed stadium this week.
While playing outdoors can certainly affect every phase of the game, it especially can impact the special teams unit.
The forecast at kickoff is 83 degrees with a 9 m.p.h. wind.
Vikings Special Teams Coach Matt Daniels noted that due to the location and build of Lincoln Financial Field, "swirling winds" make it "really, really tough" for specialists. Fortunately, Vikings kicker Greg Joseph has gotten ample outdoor practice at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, which also tends to be somewhat of a wind tunnel most days.
"We've had a couple of windy days this week, so Greg can kind of get used to kicking in that wind, because he hasn't kicked in Lincoln Financial, either," Daniels said. "So just giving him little tidbits on what to expect there, which way the winds typically blow, what the yard lines might look like as far as talking max distances. Me being able to communicate that to [Head Coach Kevin O'Connell] once the game rolls around and we're in those last 2-minute situations of the game or end of half. Understanding the situation of, 'OK, the line going this way is 30 versus going the opposite way is 35, 40 yards.' "
View photos of Vikings players during practice on September 14 at the TCO Performance Center.
In addition to being buttoned up with their specialists in regards to the elements, the Vikings will need to be ready for Eagles punter Arryn Siposs, a native of Melbourne, Australia. The Vikings are quite familiar with Australian punters, having had Jordan Berry last season and part of the 2022 preseason, and Daniels said they tend to have a different playing style – which could be even more difficult to navigate in the outdoor setting.
"A lot of them hit the end-over-end balls, which is kind of like the kickoff balls, that you have to be ready for," Daniels said. "The operation time is a lot faster, too, rather than a traditional punter. We have to prepare even in our rush schemes of being a little bit more aggressive in how we attack the rushes because the op time is a lot faster, a lot quicker, beating the ball to the spot. [It] doesn't have as much hangtime as a traditional ball does.
"We've kind of been working with [former Eagle] Jalen [Reagor] on, let's say he's on the left hash, maybe work to the right sideline to catch those balls going to his right," Daniels added. "We just have to make sure we're good beating the ball to the spot, having the understanding of seeing it off the foot. [Siposs can] hit those end-over-end balls, but also those spiral balls. Being able to see it off the foot helps us determine where the downturn and where the nose is going to be coming down in terms of placement of the ball."
Showdown between Jefferson and Brown or a slowdown? | By Craig Peters
Minnesota's Justin Jefferson (184) and Philadelphia's A.J. Brown (155) entered Week 2 ranked No. 1 and 2 in receiving yards.
Jefferson debuted in the Vikings new offense and repeatedly found space. Minnesota could have gone other places at times with the football and likely had a plan in case Green Bay did something to take away the phenom.
They did not, so Jefferson recorded nine catches on 11 targets, including touchdowns of 5 and 36 yards. He also put some more sauce on the day with a 64-yard catch and run to help him set a new single-game career high in yards.
Brown made his Eagles debut with 10 catches on 13 targets. He didn't reach the end zone, but Brown did record a 54-yard reception. The former Titan was the only Eagles receiver to record a catch, as 2021 first-round pick DeVonta Smith did not have a reception on four targets.
The days turned in by Jefferson and Brown are performances that alert the rest of the league, but both teams feature numerous other options.
View photos of Vikings WR Justin Jefferson during his monster game against the Packers during Week 1 of the 2022 season.
"We know we have our work cut out for ourselves this week," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "These are some real dudes that they have on the outside. So we have to make sure that we eliminate those big plays, get off the field on third down and be very, very stout in the red zone."