Time/Place- 01:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
TV Channel/Radio Station- FOX/94.1 WIP
The Eagles come back home, after their bye week last week, this Sunday at 1:00 to play the smoking hot Arizona Cardinals at the Linc. Arizona comes in at 7-4, after a blowout victory vs. Indianapolis last week, 40-11. They’ve won four straight, and yet, if the playoffs started today, they wouldn’t make it. Thus, they are hungry and continuing to fight, to earn one of those two wild-card berths come playoff time.
On the flip side, the Eagles come in at 6-5, off of their bye week, having won three straight prior to the off week. They blew out Oakland 49-20 almost a month ago at Oakland’s Coliseum, a game in which Nick Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes (with no interceptions to boot). The next two weeks, prior to the bye, they defeated Green Bay at Lambeau 27-13 without Aaron Rodgers behind center, and defeated rival Washington at home 24-16, respectively. This season, Nick Foles has thrown zero interceptions, and 16 touchdown passes, for an amazing quarterback rating of 128; which leads the league.
Foles isn’t sure to win MVP honors just yet, because he’s missed a few games, and well, because Peyton Manning is lighting the league on fire, at a dramatic rate, but he’s proved, at least for the time being, that he’s worthy of being in this league as a starter. Chip Kelly even gave him his vote of confidence.
Defensively speaking, Philadelphia has picked up the load there tremendously as well, improving under their new 3-4 scheme, under first year (under the Eagles) defensive coordinator Billy Davis. They’ve only given up 13.5 points-per-game in their past four outings, and the improvements have led to the team being ranked 18th in the league defensively now, in points-per-game against, with 23.6.
The Eagles’ d, however, needs to make vast improvements in the amount of yardage they gave up, for it could still lead to field goals, and opposing coaches going for it on 4th down, because Philadelphia ranks almost dead last in yards-per-game against, at 31st with 417.9, behind only rival Dallas’ 421.6 mark. This is mostly due to the team leading the NFL in passing-yards-against, with 300.1. They rank 12th vs. the run, in yards-against, with 117.8 per-game.
Taking away even the small plays that can lead to 1st downs are critical. Carson Palmer is a veteran with a strong arm. It’s imperative that you make him work for his yardage and points, otherwise he’s going to have a field day with this defense. The Eagles’ defense this year hasn’t forced very many fumbles, but they’ve picked off a fair amount of passes, even though zero of their 13 INTs have turned into defensive touchdowns.
Carson Palmer ranks 11th in the NFL in passing yards this year for Arizona, with 2887. He’s an interception machine, which is fantastic for an Eagles’ defense that almost needs to rely solely on the turnover, in order to be successful. This year, he has 16 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, the latter of which ranks him third in the league, behind just Geno Smith and Eli Manning.
Surprisingly, star Larry Fitzgerald, who’s been with the team for a decade now, doesn’t lead the team so far in receiving yards. That honor belongs to sophomore Michael Floyd, who has 761 (on 49 catches), to Fitzgerald’s 606 (on 50 catches), respectively. While Floyd has racked up more yardage offensively than Larry has, Fitzgerald has way more touchdowns, eight to three. Floyd was the team’s 1st-round, 13th overall pick last season, out of Notre Dame, and he’s proven thus far this year that he can be a big name receiver. With cornerback Bradley Fletcher back in action, the Eagles will need to pay even more attention to the two today, in hopes of shutting down Arizona’s offense.
As good as Arizona’s been, at times, offensively this season, Philadelphia has been even better. The high-tempo, big name offense of Chip Kelly’s has torn up the league, bit by bit, with Shady McCoy leading the NFL in rushing yards with 1009 (on 213 rushes; a 4.7 average), DeSean Jackson ranking sixth in receiving yards with 985, with seven touchdowns, and Foles playing dynamic, turnover free, high-quality football so far.
On the other hand, Arizona, unlike Philadelphia, isn’t much of a running team, as they rely almost solely on their passing game and defense to win games. In fact, they rank 24th in the league in rushing yards/game, with 88.7. For an Eagles’ defense still adapting to and learning a new defensive scheme, this is huge news, considering they don’t have to face a team with both a strong passing and running attack.
The Cardinals’ defense has been excellent, to say the least, this season. They rank eighth best in points-per-game, with 20.3, while they also are the 8th least team in yards-per-game-against, with 317.1. They make their difference on defense in the turnover column. They rank tied for second in the league with 15 interceptions on defense, and tied with numerous teams for third in defensive touchdowns, with three. Neither team, defensively, ranks particularly well in sacks, but this game, with Palmer most likely playing, with two high-octane offenses, will most likely come down to yards-against, and turnovers, on defense. If either team can stop the other in their tracks, and force a punt, or stop the opposing offense on 4th and short, it’ll make the difference.
Karlos Dansby leads the Cardinals’ defense in total tackles, with 88 (and passes defended as well, with 14), while John Abraham leads in sacks (7), and Patrick Peterson in interceptions (3). Linebacker DeMeco Ryans leads the Eagles, meanwhile, in tackles, with 96, while Brandon Boykin leads in interceptions with four, and Fletcher leads in passes defended with 13. Look out for Patrick Peterson, in general, and especially on 1-on-1 coverage vs. DeSean Jackson. Peterson is arguably the best corner in the league, along with Seattle’s Richard Sherman, and Cleveland’s Joe Haden.
Arizona kicker Jay Feely has been very solid, so far this year, making 22 out 24 total field goals, including a season-high 52 yarder. He’s 9-10 on field goals 40 or longer. Alex Henery this year, for the Eagles, is 17-22 on field-goals, with a long of 48 yards. He’s struggled, somewhat, in field-goal attempts 40 and higher, going 5-9 in 40/50 yarders this season. Perhaps, with more experience, especially in a much colder environment than Arizona, Henery will improve, although he’s not to blame for the team’s struggles thus far this year. The weather is projected to be in the mid-’40s, with some sunshine and a little bit of wind, in Philadelphia today at game-time.
On the injury front, as I mentioned, cornerback Bradley Fletcher for Philadelphia practiced this past week and should be available and starting in today’s game, for the first time since Nov. 3rd at Oakland. He had missed the past couple of games with a pectoral injury. The good news for the Eagles is that they’re almost 100% healthy. The only player ruled out for today’s game is safety Earl Wolff, who didn’t practice because of a knee injury. Thus, veteran safety and newcomer Patrick Chung will start in his place today. Not only is Fletcher returning to game action, but inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks is as well, after missing a couple games with a knee injury.
As for Arizona, health wise, rookie running back Andre Ellington is the only player for the team that was listed worse than probable, on the injury report. He did not practice this past Friday at all. Ellington said that he expects to play fully in the game but it’s most likely a game-time decision for him.
RB Andre Ellington (knee)
S Yeremiah Bell (knee)
WR Michael Floyd (shoulder)
S Rashad Johnson (ribs)
QB Carson Palmer (right hand)
RB Alfonso Smith (ankle)
S Earl Wolff (knee)
S Colt Anderson (ankle)
CB Bradley Fletcher (pectoral)
ILB Mychal Kendricks (knee)
ILB Jake Knott (hamstring)
Match-up of The Game
Patrick Peterson vs. DeSean Jackson
Keys to The Game
-Play strong on special teams, especially in a cold environment you aren’t used to
-Don’t allow the big play, for Philadelphia offensively, to occur
-Pressure Carson Palmer, and force turnovers
-Make Arizona earn their offense, and little-by-little, disallowing Larry Fitzgerald to have a big-impact game
-Finish your tackles and drives. Don’t allow Arizona to get back in it, on 3rd (and 4th) and short scenarios, especially in your own zone
Player of the Game Prediction
DeMeco Ryans- Phi
Eagles win, 23-17
Tags: arizona, arizona cardinals, arz, az, Carson Palmer, Chip Kelly, Football, karlos dansby, larry fitzgerald, Michael Vick, mychal kendricks, NFC, NFL, Nick Foles, phi, philadelphia, Philadelphia Eagles