3 storylines to watch for Eagles vs. Vikings on Thursday Night Football originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The 2023 NFL season is off and running.
Jalen Hurts and Co. were victorious on Sunday against the New England Patriots, grinding out a 25-20 win. The Vikings, meanwhile, suffered a disappointing 20-17 loss at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Here are three storylines to watch heading into Week 2's Thursday Night Football:
1. The Eagles' rushing plan remains a mystery
On their road to the Super Bowl last season, the Eagles had a clear No. 1 running back: Miles Sanders, who rushed for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. The former second-round pick signed with the Carolina Panthers in the offseason, while the Eagles revamped their running back room by acquiring D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny to compliment Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott.
In Week 1, the Eagles' top running back was undoubtedly Gainwell. The third-year pro played 61% of snaps, finishing with 54 rushing yards and 20 receiving yards. That left just 29% of snaps for Swift and 12% for Scott, while Penny was a healthy inactive.
Seems simple enough, right? Gainwell is the lead back? Well, it's not that simple. Gainwell was ruled out for Thursday with a rib injury. That will put pressure on Swift, Scott and even Penny to perform against the Vikings. It's unclear how Eagles coach Nick Sirianni plans to utilize the three players, and Hurts should also factor into the mysterious rushing attack.
2. Another season of 'Primetime Kirk Cousins' begins
Every time the Vikings play in primetime, Cousins' poor record in standalone games is a main storyline. The Vikings are 8-10 in primetime games (Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night) since Cousins joined the team in 2018. His record in all other games? 38-24-1.
Cousins' statistics in primetime are even more of a drop off, according to Philly Voice. He has 19 turnovers in 18 primetime games with the Vikings, compared to just 50 turnovers in 62 other games.
Last season against the Eagles was a textbook example of why viewers are so skeptical of Cousins on the big stage. In almost this exact same situation one year ago -- Week 2, in Philadelphia, Monday Night Football -- Cousins went 27 of 46 for 221 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in a 24-7 loss. Stating the obvious, but he has to be better than that for Minnesota to steal one on the road this time.
3. Star pass-catchers take center stage
Some of the league's best weapons will be on the field in Philly on Thursday.
For the Vikings, Justin Jefferson is the main attraction. The fourth-year wideout led the league in receptions and receiving yards last season, and he only appears to be getting better. Jefferson had nine catches for 150 yards in Week 1. Beyond Jefferson, the Vikings have an exciting rookie first-round receiver in Jordan Addison and a top tight end in T.J. Hockenson. Addison had a touchdown in his NFL debut, while Hockenson just signed a massive contract extension.
The Eagles boast arguably the league's best wide receiver duo with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. They each had seven receptions in Philly's Week 1 win after a strong first season together in 2022. Brown finished last year with 1,496 receiving yards while Smith had 1,196 in his second NFL season. On top of that, Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert is typically a consistent pass-catching option, though he was shut out in Week 1.