Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals Semi-Coherent Preview


The Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals matchup is previewed.

Coming off two straight wins, are the Eagles finally rounding into form, or have the wins mostly been the product of good luck? With the first place Cardinals coming to town, we should get a decent indication if the Eagles have truly turned their season around.

This will be the first of two (and depending on the importance of their finale, possibly three) straight prime-time games. The Eagles will be donning their black jerseys for the occasion, and if the past is any indication, that can only help their chances.

Arizona Cardinals

Record: 11-2

Head Coach: Bruce Arians

Last Week: Defeated Vikings 23-20

The Last Time they Met

Oct 26, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) catches a 75 yard touchdown as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams (26) defends during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When these teams faced off in week eight of the 2014 season, the Eagles offense was mostly stifled by the Cardinals’ defense. But thanks to a big day by Jeremy Maclin, they still found themselves in a position to win in the fourth quarter.

With the score tied and less than five minutes left to play, the Eagles were faced with a third-and-one on the Cardinals’ two yard line. LeSean McCoy was stuffed for no gain, and the Eagles settled for a field goal. That three-point lead was short-lived, as the defense allowed John Brown to get behind them for a 75 yard touchdown catch.

The Eagles still had a chance to make a comeback. Nick Foles drove the team to the Cardinals’ 16 yard line, but three pass attempts into the end zone fell incomplete, and time expired, leaving the Eagles with a loss that ultimately proved damaging to their playoff hopes.

Listen: Section 215 Podcast

What’s the Deal with the Cardinals

After earning a wild card berth last year, the Cardinals appear to be headed for an NFC West title and a playoff bye this season.

At age 35, quarterback Carson Palmer is having the best season of his career. He leads the league in quarterback rating, and has dramatically cut down on his interceptions. You could have gotten great odds on Palmer winning the league MVP award, yet he is one of the front-runners for this year’s award. He has benefited from having a stout offensive line and strong receivers. Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd may be the best set of receivers in the NFL.

On defense, the Cardinals have been similarly tough, especially against the run. Their pass defense is slightly more vulnerable, although with All Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson around, this probably won’t be the week we see a breakthrough game from Nelson Agholor.

Featured Cardinals Player: Larry Fitzgerald

This is the third straight year the Eagles have played the Cardinals; a fact that must make Larry

Oct 26, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) catches a pass under pressure from Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) in the first quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Fitzgerald quite happy. Fitzgerald is a great player who is likely to make the Hall of Fame, but he seems to take his game to another level when he plays the Eagles. Last year’s seven reception/160 yard/one touchdown (on an 80 yard catch) performance was typical of his output against them.

Fitzgerald played most of his career as an outside receiver, but these days, he is more likely to line up in the slot. E.J. Biggers had served as the Eagles’ primary slot corner for a few weeks, but the team wisely ended that experiment and returned those duties to safety Malcolm Jenkins. Stopping Fitzgerald is a tough task for even the toughest defensive backs, but the hope is that Jenkins will be capable of at least limiting the damage.

Reason to Hate the Cardinals

There is little question that the greatest moment in Arizona Cardinals history was when they won the NFC Championship Game in January 2009. It’s galling that the defeat came at the expense of the Eagles.

I’ve realized that the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since then. Did that heartbreaking loss put some sort of curse on the Eagles franchise? Damn you, Cardinals!

Key Eagles Storyline: The Special Teams are Good Again!

In 2014, several Eagles victories were fueled by big plays from the special teams. It felt like there was either a blocked punt or a kickoff returned for a touchdown every week, and kicker Cody Parkey was a revelation.

Dec 13, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis (6) kicks a field during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Those big plays were missing for much of this season, and in several games, the special teams were actually a weakness. There were a couple of blocked punts, kicker Caleb Sturgis had some early-season struggles, and Darren Sproles never seemed to have room to run on punt returns.

Things have turned around over the past two weeks. The special teams have made some big plays, and not coincidentally, the Eagles have won both games.

Considering the inconsistencies of the Eagles on both offense and defense, it would be a huge boost to their playoff chances if they could get strong play out of their special teams units every week.

Nick vs. Sam

Since they were traded for each other, it’s only natural that fans would want to compare how Nick Foles and Sam Bradford are faring on their new teams. I’ll take a weekly look at the two quarterbacks and decide who holds the edge.

Nick Foles returned to the bench last week. Barring an injury to current Rams starter Case Keenum, it seems likely that he’ll stay there for the rest of the season.

Sam Bradford had another good, but not great game last week. He had some good moments, and – stop if this sounds familiar – his receivers did him no favors with their frequent drops. I’d like to see Bradford actually win a game for the Eagles rather than just being a cog in the machine. But for now, mistake-free play will do.

The edge easily goes to Sam Bradford.

Dec 6, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (7) throws the ball against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Mocking the East

Part of the fun of being a football fan is taking pleasure in the misfortune of your favorite team’s rivals. Each week, I’ll find a reason to make fun of one of the other teams in the NFC East.

Believe it or not, three of the four NFC East teams actually won their games last week! Thanks to that stellar week, the division is now tied with the AFC South for fewest wins in the league. So the East isn’t the absolute worst anymore!

In case you were wondering, the Cowboys were the one team that lost. But I’m sure that their fans are still somehow convinced that they’ve got a chance at the playoffs.

Tweet of Importance

As Jimmy Kempski pointed out, Dez Bryant is having a poor year, but for some reason, Cowboys fans can’t seem to accept this.

Would it be rubbing it in to remind them that it wasn’t a catch?

Super Bowl Year Song of the Week

The Eagles have not made many appearances in the Super Bowl (Two, to be exact). I’m hopeful that this season will mark their third appearance in the “big game,” so each week I’m going to take a song from one of the franchise’s Super Bowl seasons (1980 and 2004) that somehow relates to this week’s game.

You May Be Right – Billy Joel, 1980

The way Sam Bradford has played lately, it seems that the Eagles were right to trade for him. While he still hasn’t necessarily proven he’s the long-term answer, things have been looking up lately.

The Week in Andy

Although Andy Reid is no longer the coach of the Eagles, I’m sure many fans miss the guy. Therefore, every so often, I’ll take a look at what “Big Red” is up to in Kansas City.

The scene: Chiefs general manager John Dorsey enters Andy Reid‘s office where he is furiously working on a game plan.

Dorsey: Hey coach, looks like you’re hard at work.

Reid: I always am. I’m coming up with this week’s game plan.

Dorsey: Good stuff. I’ll admit, I was worried earlier in the season, but I guess you really do know what you’re doing.

Reid: I like to think so. What were you worried about anyway?

Image Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Dorsey: When we lost five straight games earlier in the season, I thought we were done for!

Reid: We lost five straight games?

Dorsey: You don’t remember…wait, why am I bothering to ask?

Reid: Heh heh…Yeah. So things are going better now?

Dorsey: You have no idea what our record is, do you?

Reid: Nope, you just gotta take things one week at a time. So what is our record?

Dorsey: We’re 8-5.

Reid: Not bad.

Dorsey: Good enough for second place.

Reid: Just second? Who’s in first?

Dorsey: The Broncos.

Reid: Crap, well we’re not going to beat them. Nobody beats Peyton Manning.

Dorsey: Coach, Manning isn’t even playing anymore. He’s been benched. And we actually beat the Broncos a few weeks ago.

Reid: Did we? That’s great! Maybe I should give the guys a week off or something.

Dorsey: That’s kinda tough considering we have a game in a few days.

Reid: Right…Hey, I have a question; Is Peyton Manning available?

Dorsey: Probably, but he’s likely to retire at the end of the season.

Reid: That’s just what Brett Favre used to say every year! Get his agent on the phone!

Dorsey: Sure, I’ll get right on that.


This game isn’t crucial to the Eagles. Win or lose, they’ll probably need to beat both the Redskins and Giants in order to win the division. Even with the two-game win streak and black jerseys, the Eagles aren’t playing well enough for me to pick them to beat one of the top teams in the league. The inevitable big game from Larry Fitzgerald will carry the Cardinals to victory.

Cardinals 33 – Eagles 20