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Opposing Viewpoint: Eagles Writer Answers 5 Questions About Philadelphia

For the third straight week, the Vikings will face a team with an identical record.

Minnesota and Philadelphia are both 3-2, and Sunday's game follows a Week 5 matchup where the Vikings and Giants entered at 2-2, and a game in Week 4 where the Vikings and Bears were both 2-1 at kickoff.

As the weeks roll on, the importance of each game grows as the midpoint of the season draws near.

Both Minnesota and Philadelphia are coming off impressive off impressive wins in Week 5.

And while there has been plenty of coverage on the Purple this week, Vikings.com chatted with Eagles reporter Dave​ Spadaro for a glance at what the other side is thinking before Sunday's contest.

Here is the Week 6 edition of Opposing Viewpoint:

Let's begin with a dominant Eagles defense. Philadelphia is the NFL's top rushing defense (just 63.0) yards per game, but also recorded 10 sacks Sunday. What, or who, makes that unit click to be one of the league's best?

Dave Spadaro: The scheme is an aggressive, downhill one that emphasizes the defensive line getting off at the snap and creating havoc. And, truthfully, that havoc has not been particularly consistent in this first stretch of the season. Playing the Jets comes with an asterisk in that New York has one of the worst offensive lines and quarterback (in that game, Luke Falk) that you're going to see in the NFL. You say the defense is dominant. I say the defense is entering a prove-it stretch starting Sunday in Minnesota.

The Eagles lost defensive tackle Malik Jackson after Week 1 with a Lisfranc injury, a huge blow for a line that expected him to team with Fletcher Cox to form a tough-to-handle inside pass rush. Then his backup, Tim Jernigan, went down the following week with a foot injury and won't play on Sunday. Until playing the Jets, the Eagles had not generated the kind of up-front pressure they hoped with the four-man pass rush, and coordinator Jim Schwartz has blitzed more than in the past.

So, there are questions about this defense and Sunday will answer some of them. The cornerbacks have been hit hard by injury – starters Ronald Darby (knee) and Avonte Maddox (neck) won't play and incumbent starter Jalen Mills (foot) has been on the PUP list all year. The Eagles rank 32nd in the league in yards allowed in the passing game.

Where they have been consistently good is against the run and in the red zone. Again, though, the Eagles haven't gone against an offense that has a running back like Dalvin Cook, so this is going to be a great test.

How have the Eagles worked through having injuries at wide receiver? Is there a go-to guy for Carson Wentz?

DS: It's been a challenge without the explosiveness of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and the vertical game has suffered with his absence. But the Eagles have other weapons, including tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert who team up when the offense uses its "12 personnel" (one running back, two tight ends) package. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are key to the passing attack, with Mack Hollins as an emerging third option.

The Eagles are scoring touchdowns in the red zone, they're minimizing their giveaways and they are leaning more on a running game fueled by a two-headed combination of Jordan Howard and rookie Miles Sanders, who has also contributed big plays in the passing game.

When Wentz needs a big first down, he knows he's got a reliable weapon in Ertz, who last season caught 116 passes, an NFL record for tight ends.

Speaking of Wentz, how has he looked so far in 2019? He's been hampered by injuries in recent years, but he has also shown the potential to be an MVP candidate when at his best.

DS: He's all the way back from the injuries and he's played excellent football, keeping an offense that has been challenged with the injuries on track. Wentz has thrown just two interceptions in 174 passing attempts, and his 1.15 interception rate is the best of his career. With Wentz, you're always going to see a fierce competitor who has great ability to escape pressure in and out of the pocket. He's got all the throws, and the Eagles give him a lot of leeway to change the play call at the line of scrimmage.

The Eagles know they're always in the game with Wentz. He just doesn't give up and as the Eagles enter a critical stretch that includes three straight road games, they will need No. 11 to be at his very best against formidable opposition.

Which Viking has been talked about in the Eagles locker room this week as a player the team needs to focus on?

DS: No doubt about it, the answer is Dalvin Cook. Yes, the Eagles have great numbers against the run, but they haven't seen a back in Cook's class as a versatile weapon. The defense had a taste last week when Le'Veon Bell played at Lincoln Financial Field, but Bell's surrounding cast isn't anywhere close to what the Vikings will offer on Sunday. The Eagles have the ultimate respect for Cook and his big-play skills in both the running game and the passing game.

This isn't a division game, but it marks the fourth consecutive season, including the playoffs, the teams have met. Even though this game is in October, do you feel it could mean a lot come December when the playoff spots are determined?

DS: It's become quite a rivalry, hasn't it? And it's certainly very important in a crowded NFC playoff picture. I think everyone expects both of these teams to be right there through the end of December so, yeah, this game means a lot. The Eagles are 2-2 in the conference. You just know that all of these games are going to mean something down the stretch, and for Philadelphia, Sunday represents a road game in a hostile environment that is going to have the feel of a playoff game. There are so many matchups within the matchup to evaluate. It's going to be a great, great battle between two playoff-caliber teams.

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