ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Sports and Recreation»
  • Team Sports»
  • American Football»
  • NFL Football

Eagles-Cardinals Preview: Rushing Birds

Updated on November 29, 2013

It seems that Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians doesn't think too highly of Chip Kelly's read-option offense, as he basically trashed it as nothing more than a college gimmick. Kelly pointed out that the Eagles really don't run that much of the read-option anyway, as he declined to escalate the war of words. Too bad. Oh well, I guess the players will have to decide this one on the field on Sunday.


Both teams are in the thick of the NFC playoff race and a win would help their chances immensely. The 6-5 Eagles are coming off a bye and have won their last three in a row, behind NFC Offensive Player of the Month, Nick Foles, who had the highest QB rating during a month in NFL history (152.8 in November). The Cardinals have won four in a row to raise their record to 7-4, but three of those four wins were over teams with a 2-9 record (Atlanta, Houston and Jacksonville). Let's take a look at the matchup.

NFC Offensive Player of the Month Nick Foles
NFC Offensive Player of the Month Nick Foles

Eagles Offense Versus Cardinals Defense

Nick Foles is currently the top rated quarterback in the NFL, with a 128 QB Rating, but he'll be facing the best defense he's seen this season against Arizona. The Eagles are the 4th ranked offense in the NFL (412.4 yards per game), but the Cardinals are the 8th ranked defense, giving up only 317.1 yards per game. They also blitz more than any other team in the NFL (48.9% of their defensive snaps). How Foles handles that blitz is likely to be the deciding factor in this game. Luckily, Pro Football Focus ranks Foles as the best QB in the NFL against the blitz. Foles is a smart quarterback, who is able to read defenses and find the open receivers.


Arizona's pass defense is ranked only 17th in the NFL (235.8 ypg), but they have the best cornerback in the entire NFL, Patrick Peterson. In spite of how well Riley Cooper is playing this season for the Eagles, Peterson will cover DeSean Jackson wherever he goes on the field. Jackson has 58 catches for 985 yards and seven TDs, but now he'll have to deal with Peterson, who can bump him at the line and also run with him (4.31, 40 time). Cooper will need to burn Jerraud Powers on the other side, or the Tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz will need to get open because I don't think Jackson will have a big day. Tyrann Mathieu (The Honey Badger from LSU) starts at free safety and moves to slot corner on passing downs.

In order for any of those receivers to have time to get open, the Eagles' offensive line will have to give Foles enough time in the pocket to find them. The interior of the Eagles line will have their hands full with NT Dan Williams and end Darnell Docket. They'll also see plenty of A-gap rushers through the middle when the Cards blitz. On the outside, LT Jason Peters will have his hands full with a resurgent John Abraham (team-leading 7 sacks) and rookie RT Lane Johnson will have to contend with Calais Campbell (5.5 sacks).

The Eagles still have the No. 2 ranked rushing offense in the NFL (150.6 ypg) and the league's No. 1 rusher, in LeSean McCoy, who is the only running back in the NFL with over 1,000 yards rushing (1,009). Unfortunately for the home team, Arizona has the 2nd best run defense in the NFL (82.3 ypg), so the battle in the trenches will be fierce. LB Carlos Dansby is the leader of the Arizona defense with 88 tackles.

NFC Wild Card Standings

 
Wins
Losses
Ties
Carolina Panthers
8
3
0
San Francisco 49ers
7
4
0
Arizona Cardinals
7
4
0
Dallas Cowboys
7
5
0
Philadelphia Eagles
6
5
0
Chicago Bears
6
5
0
Green Bay Packers
5
6
1
Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald
Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald | Source

Who is the Better Defensive Coordinator?

See results

Cardinals Offense Versus Eagles Defense

The Cardinals offense struggled early in the season trying to learn Arians' offense. Arians is a Don Coryell disciple, so he loves taking shots down field. That's why he got Carson Palmer to be his QB. While Palmer hasn't had a good season in a while, he does have a good arm. Palmer threw 13 interceptions in the first seven games, but he's thrown 8 TDs and only 2 INTs in the last four games, all Arizona wins. The Cardinals are ranked 16th in total offense (334.0 ypg), but they're getting better as they become more comfortable in Arians' offense.


Of course, when you have the receiving options that Palmer has, it makes any quarterback's job easy. Larry Fitzgerald is having a down year by his standards (50 catches for 606 yards, 8 TDs), but that might have something to do with the hamstring injury he played through earlier in the season. He healthy now and he's got Michael Floyd producing on the other side. Floyd had 49 receptions for 761 yards this season. Both Fitzgerald and Floyd are 6-3, so it's good that CB Bradley Fletcher returns for the Eagles. He and Cary Williams are going to have their hands full on Sunday. Slot receiver Andre Roberts will be matched up on Brandon Boykin a ton, but Arians also likes to move Fitz into the slot as well. I don't care how well Boykin is playing though; he'll give up about six inches to Fitz. And I know I've been critical of the Eagles safeties, but Nate Allen is suddenly playing up to the promise he showed in his rookie season.

The best way for the Eagles to stop the Cardinals passing game is to get pressure on Palmer. While the Eagles don't have a great pass rush, they have been getting better at it lately. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton have been generating a decent pass rush from the defensive line and even LB Trent Cole gets to the QB on occasion these days. He should be able to get to Palmer again on Sunday, as Arizona's Bradley Sowell might be the worst left tackle in the NFL.

The Eagles have the 31st ranked defense (417.9 ypg), but they are dead last in the NFL defending the pass (300.1 ypg). Some of that has to do with teams throwing late when the Eagles get the lead, but some of it also has to do with Billy Davis' bend-but-don't-break scheme. In spite of those horrible rankings, the Eagles only allow 23.6 points per game (15th) and haven't allowed an opposing team to score more than 21 points in their last seven games. The reason for that is that they are the 4th best red zone defense in the NFL, allowing scores (TD of FG) 78 percent of the time and TDs only 45 percent of the time. It also helps that they have forced four red zone turnovers, which is second only to the Rams in the NFL.

Luckily for the Eagles, the Cardinals can't run the football. Arizona is ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing (88.7), which will help the Eagles mediocre 21st ranked run defense (117.8 ypg). Rashard Mendenhall is a shell of the player that had two 1,000-yard seasons with Pittsburgh and rookie Andre Ellington leads the team in rushing, with a pathetic 441 yards. The Eagles will get LB Mychal Kendricks back and he'll team with a resurgent DeMeco Ryans to control the Arizona ground game.

Eagles Punter Donnie Jones
Eagles Punter Donnie Jones

Special Teams

The Eagles still can't seem to generate anything in their return game, even when they use DeSean Jackson to return punts. At least they have Donnie Jones punting though. That will be important, as Patrick Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns last season. Only three of Jones' last 20 punts have been returned and he would be smart to keep it away from Peterson this game. Arizona kicker, Jay Feely has only missed 2 of his 24 kicks this season. Eagles kicker Alex Henery, on the other hand, has made on 17 of his 22 attempts and is just 5-for-10 from 39 yards or longer.

CBS Sports: Eagles-Cardinals Preview

Coaches

Bruce Arians' View of Chip Kelly's Offense
Bruce Arians' View of Chip Kelly's Offense

Arians is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year for his work in Indianapolis last season, when he took over for Chuck Pagano, but this is his first year in Arizona. He's got the Cardinals offense playing at their best level of the season and ex-Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has the defense playing at an elite level. Kelly continues to make rookie mistakes, especially his inability to understand the NFL Challenge system, but he's already got six wins in a season that most predicted to be a struggle as he tried to rebuild from the rubble the previous coach left behind. Similarly, defensive coordinator Billy Davis is working miracles with a defense that is short on star players and is trying to make the switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 alignment without all of the proper personnel. They give up yardage, but not points. The late, great Jim Johnson would be proud.

The Prediction

The Eagles are first in yards per play and first in plays of 20+ yards (67), but they haven't faced a defense as good as the Cardinals. Arizona's defense is first in forced fumbles (15), tied for first in sacks (30), second in interceptions (15) and tied for third in total takeaways (23). The Eagles best chance to win will not only be stopping the Cardinals vaunted pass rush, but in keeping their own up-tempo offensive attack going. Bowles likes to make frequent substitutions, so not allowing the Cardinals defense do so will work in the Eagles favor.


This one is going to be close, but I think the Eagles offense will keep the Arizona defense off balance enough to give Foles time to find his receivers and McCoy enough space to get his yards. In spite of what Arians said, Kelly seems to have adapted his offense to Foles' skill set rather nicely. On the other side of the ball, I don't expect the Eagles to shut down Fitzgerald and Floyd, but they will be able to stop the one-dimensional Cardinals from scoring enough to get the road win.


Eagles 27 - Cardinals 23

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Sounds like Foles played well again. They kept pace with Dallas.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Excellent analysis. This is going to be tight. Good luck to the Eagles.