Kirk Cousins has had some of the best success of his career against Philadelphia, both from his time with Washington and even with his start against the Eagles last year during his first season with the Vikings.
In seven career starts against Philadelphia when Cousins was in Washington, he went 4-3 and completed 177 of 275 passes (64.4% completion rate) for 2,122 yards — an average of 303 yards per game — 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.
He continued that trend last Oct. 7 with the Vikings, completing 30 of 37 passes for 301 yards and one score in a 23-21 road victory.
But Cousins said this week that he can’t look back on those victories as the Vikings get ready for a big game at home against an Eagles team that is 3-2 but has won two in a row, including handing the Packers their only loss of the season, 34-27 at Lambeau Field on Sept. 26.
“I have things in my eight games starting against the Eagles and I’ve had some positive ones and some real heartbreakers,” Cousins said. “You just kind of get used to anything can happen on any given Sunday. I think when you look around the league at who has beaten who, it really becomes a puzzle that is hard to figure out. Everybody has good players. One play, one situational error, can make the biggest difference in the outcome of a game.”
Eagles steady defense
The Eagles rank 10th in the NFL in total defense, giving up 334.2 yards per game — for comparison, the Vikings are fourth at 292.4.
But after recording only three sacks in their first four games, the Eagles broke out for 10 sacks against the Jets last week in a 31-6 victory.
Cousins said that having Jim Schwartz as Eagles defensive coordinator, a role the former Detroit coach has held since Doug Pederson took over as coach in 2016, means he knows what to expect from their defense.
“You watch the whole season. We don’t need to say, ‘Oh the Jets game is how we’re going to play them.’ I have so much respect for their pass rush,” Cousins said. “Every time I have played them, you know what they can do and they effect they can have on a game.
“I think it was a big reason why so many of those guys have Super Bowl rings, because of the way they can rush the passer. You’re acutely aware of that. But when you play, coaches are going to call plays aware of that. But at the same time, you watch the other games, too, and try to get a feel for the way they played against their opponents.”
In 2016, the Eagles finished 13th in total defense. They improved to fourth in the Super Bowl championship season of 2017, then fell back to 25th last year, when Philadelphia still made the playoffs.
“Coach Schwartz being the coordinator, you’re going to have a lot more consistency,” Cousins said. “I think personnel changes subtly, you still see the big names like Malcolm Jenkins and Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, who have been there for a long time. They kind of, I think, provide a lot of consistency.
“[Ex-Vikings safety] Andrew Sendejo playing there, players like that are newer, but they’re playing within the scheme. It shouldn’t be too different. I think when you have injuries, you have personnel changes — [ex-Vikings cornerback] Craig James had played a lot for them and he was here with us, a few lockers down from me, for the past few years.
“When you have those changes, you may start to change your scheme a little bit, to put players in a position to be successful and help them do what they’re familiar with. But all in all, I think what coach Schwartz has done worked really well and won them a Super Bowl, so there’s not a whole lot of reasons to change the script at this point. I think they’re No. 1 in the NFL against the run [63.0 yards per game]. It’ll be a great challenge for us.”
Cook the receiver
Cousins had a lot of praise for running back Dalvin Cook, who had the best receiving day of his pro career Sunday against the Giants, with six receptions on six targets for 86 yards.
“We’ve always tried to make sure that he’s getting out on his route when he’s not in on protection, and he’s part of the progression and when my read is taken to him, he gets the ball and from there makes plays,” Cousins said. “Just try to continue to get him opportunities, whether that is in the screen game, the drop-back game, the quick game, kind of a smattering.”
Cook is only 73 rushing yards away from setting a career high for a single season, and his 200 receiving yards are 105 short of the 305 yards he had catching the ball last season.
Cousins said he has been amazed at what he sees from Cook out of the backfield.
“He is making people miss,” Cousins said. “There are a lot of players unblocked or in on the tackle and you think they have him dead to rights and they don’t seem to. For whatever reason he tends to make that first guy miss on the tackle and that is the mark of a great running back. I’m so encouraged to see not only the way he has run the ball, but he catches the ball and it is just as important that he is effective there, as well, and he has been.”
Vegas oddsmakers view this matchup as pretty even, as they have the Vikings as three-point favorites at home. But there’s no doubt beating the Eagles would be a marquee victory for the Vikings after they lost tough road games to the Packers and Bears.
Huskers dominated U
The fact that the Gophers are seven-point favorites against Nebraska has to look like a typo to many fans of the home team.
From 1963 to 1990, the teams met 14 times. Nebraska went 14-0, and though the first four meetings were close, over the final 10 meetings the Cornhuskers outscored the Gophers 489-58.
Nebraska won a prime-time game at the Metrodome 84-13 in 1983. They also posted back-to-back shutouts of the Gophers, 48-0 in 1989 and 56-0 in 1990.
The Gophers are 3-5 vs. Nebraska since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. After the Gophers won 54-21 at TC Bank Stadium in 2017, the Huskers got their revenge last year, winning 53-28 in Lincoln.
Saturday night’s game could present a challenge for two of the top offensive teams in conference play. The Gophers rank third with an average of 487.5 yards in two contests, while the Huskers rank fourth, averaging 408.0 yards over three games.
But the weather calls for temperatures in the 30s with rain and maybe snow.
Gophers defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. said this week that it should provide a fun challenge.
“They’re a good offense, a good team. It’s going to be an interesting matchup when we go against them,” he said “It’s going to be a nice one. I know the weather is going to be nice and chilly, so it’s going to be interesting.”