NFL picks and best odds: favorite Eagles (-145) welcome Minnesota (+122) on MNF looking to reach 2-0

Two 1-0 teams clash in the week two Monday Night Football double header, with Nick Sirianni's Eagles hosting first year coach Kevin O'Connell's Vikings. NFL betting expert, Scott Kacsmar has broken down the matchup and gives us his predictions.

NFL Justin Jefferson Minnesota Vikings

Can all-pro Justin Jefferson be the difference maker for the Vikings in week two? © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Logo

Scott Kacsmar

NFL writer and football betting expert

MatchupMinnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles
LocationLincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
WhenMonday September 19 2022, 8.30pm ET
Where to watchABC

Minnesota Vikings: new kings in the North?

Under rookie coach Kevin O’Connell, the Vikings may have made a statement in their 23-7 win over the Packers. Sure, the Vikings usually split with Green Bay, but this felt different with Justin Jefferson exploding for 184 yards and Kirk Cousins looking looser and more confident in the offense.

The defense was less-than lights out against the run, allowing Green Bay’s duo to gain 94 yards on just 15 carries, but A.J. Dillon was stopped cold on a 4th-and-1 run at the goal line in a big stand for Minnesota. The defense also held Aaron Rodgers, clearly missing Davante Adams, to a single scoring drive while sacking him four times. The game was never in doubt with Minnesota leading wire-to-wire.

If this was a sign of what’s to come from these teams this season, then Minnesota is the new favorite in the NFC North. The only concern is that outside of 2019 when the Vikings were last a playoff team with a 10-6 record, teams led by Cousins are always within one game of a .500 record.

Will this be another case of one step forward, two steps back if the Vikings struggle in Philadelphia?

NFL Jalen Hurts Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles: beasts in the East?

Just like Minnesota, the Eagles are looking to overtake their division this year. Things got off to a good start with a 38-35 win over Detroit, though the Eagles did have to sweat out the final minutes after leading by 17 points to start the fourth quarter. The rushing attack was lethal again with 216 rushing yards and four players scoring a touchdown, including Miles Sanders after he went 163 touches in 2021 without a single score.

While that isn’t the type of win that will impress skeptics, the offense looked strong and so did the pass defense until the fourth quarter. The run defense could step it up after allowing 181 rushing yards to Detroit, a team not known for ground success.

Both teams having division title expectations is interesting since those are exactly the kind of teams they have not been able to beat in recent years.

  • Since 2018 when Cousins arrived, the Vikings are 3-23 against playoff teams with double-digit wins.

  • Two of the wins were against the Packers and the only one outside the division was the 2019 wild card win in overtime in New Orleans.

  • Since 2020 when Jalen Hurts was drafted, the Eagles are 1-15 SU and 5-11 ATS against other playoff teams, and the only outright win was Hurts’ first start against the 2020 Saints, who played Taysom Hill instead of Drew Brees.

  • The 2021 Eagles were 0-7 SU and 1-6 ATS against other playoff teams, joining the 2011 Bengals as the only other playoff team with a winless record in that many games against playoff teams.

This is why no one really trusts either of these teams to do well in the playoffs if they get there, but someone will have the chance to start 2-0 and continue building that trust this season.

Player match up: A.J. Brown vs. Patrick Peterson

NFL AJ Brown Patrick Peterson

© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports / © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We will get to what Justin Jefferson did on Sunday for the Vikings, but there is another star wide receiver in this matchup. A.J. Brown made his team debut on Sunday after the big trade from Tennessee, and he immediately lived up to the hype for the Eagles.

Brown finished with 10 catches on 13 targets for 155 yards. Brown’s teams are now 14-3 when he has at least 90 receiving yards in a game, so his numbers are usually very meaningful. He is on a short list of receivers who could upstage Jefferson in a matchup like this.

Brown also should have a favorable matchup with a Minnesota secondary that was not properly tested on Sunday. On the very first snap for Green Bay’s offense, rookie wideout Christian Watson burned veteran corner Patrick Peterson for what should have been a 75-yard touchdown, but the rookie dropped it. The Packers did not have a 25-yard pass play until the final, meaningless snap of the game.

You cannot expect Brown to have as many open looks, but he would not drop that ball if he beat Peterson like that. The Vikings were fortunate to be catching Green Bay in its Week 1 funk as the Packers look to adjust to life without Davante Adams, or really any proven wide receiver.

Brown is going to give the Vikings a major test, and he’ll have to deliver because of what’s on the other side of this matchup.

Can anyone stop Justin Jefferson this year?

It is almost not fair that Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell can go from coordinating an offense with Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles to featuring Justin Jefferson in Minnesota. Kupp won the receiving triple crown last year and Jefferson has put in a strong start to pursue the same in 2022. His 184 yards against the Packers are a career high and were the most by any player in Week 1.

Part of Kupp’s success in Los Angeles is the willingness of Sean McVay to move him around the field, especially with motion in the slot where he dominates even more. It looks like O’Connell is bringing the same to Minnesota with Jefferson his No. 1 puzzle piece for improving this offense.

But the Packers were shockingly bad at leaving Jefferson, who they have seen twice a year since 2020, wide open on Sunday. They also failed to shadow him with top corner Jaire Alexander, which seems like a bad use of resources. Why spend money for a top corner if he won’t follow the top receiver?

On a 64-yard gain by Jefferson, there was no Green Bay defender within 10 yards of him. According to ESPN, Jefferson took 41 snaps lined up outside, 12 in the slot, two in the backfield, and one at tight end. While 12 slot plays may not sound like much, he had 91 of his 184 yards on those plays. According to ESPN, Jefferson is only the second player in the last seven seasons to gain at least 90 yards from outside and slot alignments in the same game.

Philadelphia corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry will have their work cut out for them. But the key is for the Eagles to give them help and not leave Jefferson all alone like the Packers did.

NFL Devonta Smith Philadelphia Eagles
© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sport

Player to watch: DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles did so many things well on Sunday against the Lions, but between four players scoring a rushing touchdown and Brown’s monster debut, one key player was left with the quietest game of his young career.

Second-year wideout DeVonta Smith was held without a catch for the first time in the NFL as he did not haul in any of his four targets. His big-play ability could lead to the Eagles to being an even more dangerous offense, but it was an inauspicious start to 2022 for the youngster.

However, do not fret. Last season, Smith’s least productive game was when he set season lows with one catch on three targets for 15 yards. Guess where that game was? It was in Detroit against the Lions in a 44-6 blowout win where Hurts attempted 14 passes.

The Eagles were more into passing on Sunday with 32 attempts, but Smith should be a big part of the offense going forward as teams figure out what to do with Brown. That 155-0 yardage split between the two receivers in Detroit should change dramatically starting this week.

Smith should have a nice rebound game as he takes on a Minnesota secondary that was just not tested enough by what the Packers have to offer this season. Smith and Brown make for a great duo, and we should see more of the advantage of having them together in Week 2.

Vikings vs Eagles picks and predictions

These were two of the best offensive teams in Week 1, and we know those wide receivers are legit weapons in any given matchup. With both defenses having their share of struggles against the run, and with the way these two teams can run and pass, I like the over 49.5 points to hit in this one.

Expert NFL Pick: Over 50.5 points (-110)

Both teams have a long way to go to convince the betting public they are serious Super Bowl contenders in an open NFC, but the winner shining in this prime-time game would help build that case. I think the Eagles have more weapons to use and will deliver in front of the fans to get the cover.

Expert NFL Pick: Eagles -3 (+100)

Finally, Jalen Hurts is becoming one of the best red-zone options for the Eagles as a runner. Of his 14 career rushing touchdowns, all but one has come from within the 7-yard line, including six scores from the 1. After the Packers had some issues running on the Vikings at the goal line last week, look for Hurts to carry the Eagles into the end zone for another short one.

Free NFL Pick: Jalen Hurts Anytime Touchdown Scorer

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