NFL Preview - Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5)|
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Bruce Arians was a candidate for the vacant Philadelphia
Eagles job, but the powers that be decided Chip Kelly, with no professional
experience, was better equipped.
It didn't take long for Arians to find a job, however, and he will lead the
Arizona Cardinals into the Philadelphia Sunday to battle the Eagles.
Arians, who gained notoriety by filling in for an ill Chuck Pagano with the
Indianapolis Colts last season, has guided the Cardinals to a surprising 7-4
start and has them on the brink of ending a three-year postseason layoff. The
Cardinals are currently in the hunt for a wild card spot since it appears the
Seattle Seahawks will take home the NFC West title.
The Eagles are also flirting with the idea of making a playoff run in Kelly's
first season at the helm and are even with the Dallas Cowboys for first place
in the NFC East. The Cowboys own the tiebreaker after beating the Eagles a few
weeks back at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Cardinals hope to find
Arizona has won four in a row, including three straight after the bye, and
hammered the Colts, 40-11, on Sunday in the desert. A 26-yard touchdown
reception by Larry Fitzgerald and a 22-yard interception return for a score by
Karlos Dansby highlighted a 20-point second quarter for the Cardinals, who
racked up 410 yards of offense and hope to gain some more attention in the
"I think this was a respect game," said Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer,
who threw for 314 yards with a pair of TD passes to Fitzgerald. "I don't think
we are well respected throughout the league, and that's not anybody's fault
but our own. But I think we are better than people think."
The Cardinals deserve a lot of credit with wins over Detroit, Carolina and
Indianapolis. Still, veteran defensive lineman Darnell Dockett feels Arizona
is slighted each week.
"You know what's funny?" Dockett said. "Whenever the Cardinals win it's always
what the other team didn't do. It's never what we forced other teams to do. We
understand that. Everyone says, 'They didn't beat nobody, they didn't beat
Well, the Colts aren't nobodies. They, too, are in the mix for a playoff spot
and just got waxed by their former assistant coach in Arians, whose squad last
won four in a row to start the 2012 season and hasn't prevailed in five
straight games since the St. Louis Cardinals won six in a row during the 1977
campaign under head coach Don Coryell.
The Cardinals hope to keep the momentum going and keep pressing for a chance
at reaching the playoffs.
"We are in the hunt," Arizona cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "That's all you
can ask for. It seems like everyone is believing in one another."
Meanwhile, the Eagles are feeling just as confident with three straight wins
and last won four in a row to close out the 2011 campaign at 8-8. Eagles
quarterback Nick Foles was still slinging the ball for the University of
Arizona and completed 387-of-560 passes for 4,334 yards and 28 touchdowns for
The second-year pro, who was recently crowned the starter, is now lighting up
opposing defenses at a rapid rate and is building confidence in himself, with
the coaches and his teammates.
"He has the utmost confidence in himself," said Eagles wide receiver Riley
Cooper. "He is a great quarterback and he should. He is the general out there.
We are all listening to him. He does a great job."
Cooper has been the beneficiary of Foles' resurgence and is second on the
Eagles with 592 yards on 31 catches. His seven touchdown receptions is tied
with DeSean Jackson. Foles, though, is the reason for the success and has
1,554 yards with 16 TD passes and no interceptions for a 128.0 rating. His
rating ranks first in the NFL and has six games this season with a rating of
100 or better.
During the Eagles' winning streak, Foles' QB rating is 152.8. He has thrown
199 consecutive passes without an interception and his 9.6 yards per attempt
is first in the league. Foles has the Eagles flying high and helped them halt
a 10-game home losing streak with last week's 24-16 win over the Washington
Redskins. He threw for 298 yards and did not have a touchdown pass. He didn't
need to because LeSean McCoy ran for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"I feel like we've put ourselves in a good position," Foles said. "That's all
you can ask for, especially heading into the bye week. Especially with winning
our last game at home, (we're) moving in the right direction and just
continuing to change the atmosphere here. The coaches here are doing a great
job and the players are doing a great job of buying in, so I think that we
have to keep going in that direction and keep leaning on each other, and we'll
see what happens."
The New York Giants did no favors by losing to the Cowboys on Sunday, so it's
a tight rope to walk in the division.
Speaking of walking the line, Michael Vick said Foles deserves to remain the
start for how well he's played. Vick is no fool and believes in the idiom if
it's not broke, don't fix it.
"In all honesty, in all fairness, how can you take a guy out of the game who's
been playing so well?" Vick said. "I've been in this stage before, and I know
what it's like. I understand the position that this team is in, and the one
thing I never want to do is be a distraction or put our team or our coaches in
a position where they feel like they're not doing the right thing or I feel
like they're not doing the right thing."
Philadelphia has been doing the right thing offensively and is averaging 33.3
points and 453 yards during the winning streak.
Jackson, Cooper and McCoy have been Philly's big three in recent weeks, while
Jackson is 15 yards shy of the third 1,000-yard season of his career. AFter
three straight weeks of rushing for no more than 55 yards, McCoy had 155 yards
on 25 carries at Green Bay, then ran for 77 yards on 20 carries versus the
Redskins to surpass running backs coach Duce Staley for third on the team's
all-time rushing list with 4,875 yards.
McCoy also reached the 1,000-mark for the third time in his career and didn't
know it until it was brought up to him.
"I did know this though, I had 10 yards to pass Duce," McCoy said. "So I knew
that was going to happen."
The shifty back averages about half of 10 yards (4.7 ypg) for an Eagles squad
looking for revenge versus the Cardinals after last season's 27-6 loss on
Sept. 23 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Philadelphia's most recent victory
in the series was a 48-20 home rout on Thanksgiving Night of 2008, and the
Eagles have taken five of the last nine regular-season bouts since 2000 with
their former division rivals.
Including the 2008 NFC Championship, which the Cardinals won by a 32-25 count
to advance to their only Super Bowl, Arizona has won three in a row against
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Eagles give up a league-worst 300.1 passing yards per game and are 31st in
total yards allowed (417.9). So what can they expect from Fitzgerald, one of
the top wide receivers in the game?
Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the last
meeting with the Eagles and has played them four times in his career, posting
26 catches for 418 yards and six TDs. No matter who is covering Fitzgerald,
whether it's Cary Williams, Brandon Boykin or Bradley Fletcher, who is
bothered by a pectoral muscle and is questionable Sunday, the Eagles will
experience some trouble.
Palmer gave some insight on what it's like to cover Fitzgerald, who eclipsed
the 11,000-yard mark in his career. He is the youngest to reach that mark.
"Any time you have Larry 1-on-1 down in the red zone, it's not a good matchup
for the other team," Palmer said.
Floyd can be an issue, too, so it's important for an improved Eagles defense
to force Palmer into making mistakes. Palmer's known for erratic play at
times, but the former Heisman Trophy winner can also shred defenses. Just ask
the Colts, who failed to pick off a pass.
Williams, though, is impressed with how well the unit is playing.
"We're getting there and I also think we all understand that a lot of work is
ahead to get to where we need to be," said Williams. "The play up front has
improved, which impacts everyone. I think that confidence is the big reason.
Everybody understands what the coaches are looking for and we've all worked
hard studying that. You see the results. We all feel like it's improving."
Speaking of play up front, give credit to big men Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox
and Cedric Thornton. They have combined for eight sacks, while Curry and
linebacker Connor Barwin have four apiece. LB Trent Cole and Cox each have
posted three sacks.
The Cardinals have some muscle of their own on defense and sack master John
Abraham has seven so far. Defensive end Calais Campbell has 5 1/2 sacks and
Dockett owns 4 1/2, while veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby leads the Cardinals
with 88 tackles.
Dansby registered five stops against Indianapolis and an interception. Look
for him to disrupt Philadelphia's run game by shooting the gaps. Colts
quarterback Andrew Luck was rattled often in Sunday's game.
"They created a bit of a hornet's nest," Luck said of the defensive pressure.
Don't sleep on Arizona's secondary either with rookie Tyrann Mathieu, stud
Patrick Peterson, Powers and Yeremiah Bell. They, too, will have their hands
full with Jackson, Cooper and tight end Brent Celek. Celek hasn't been much of
a factor lately, which is why he could be a pest Sunday.
The Cardinals seem to give the Eagles fits lately and will do so again at the
Linc. The Nick Foles show has to have some sort of commercial break and it
will be good to get that out of the way now instead of later. A loss won't
impact much in the NFC East because it's still wide open.
Arizona is fighting with the Eagles and many other teams in a push toward the
postseason and it will be up to Palmer and the defense to make that happen.
The Eagles do have some nice weapons, but the Cardinals can counter that with
their impressive defense.
Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles performed the same role in a
limited capacity for Philadelphia last season, so expect his familiarity with
the opponent to come in handy.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cardinals 23, Eagles 16
11/28 11:32:41 ET