Eagles (6-7) vs Cardinals (11-2) Week 15 – Preview

The Eagles are in a rare position this week.  In a season where it feels all games are must in they don’t need this game to make the playoffs.  The Eagles will hold the tie breaker with both the Giants and Redskins if they beat both teams in week 16 and 17.  At 8-8 they will be division champions.  I am getting a little ahead of myself here but it’s very simple what needs to happen.

The Cardinals come in at 11-2 and look like one of the best teams in football.  They are well coached and fundamentally sound in all 3 areas of the game.  Carson Palmer is playing at an MVP record breaking all the Cardinals team passing records set by Kurt Warner.  Bruce Arians is a fantastic coach.  If you watched his “Football Life” you know what he went through to get to this point.  I’m not a huge fan of his sideline antics but he is an outstanding coach.  He will have this team ready to play.  This is a game Chip Kelly desperately wants to win.  A few years ago Arians said his “college” offense won’t work in the NFL.  These two have a friendly rivalry but not sure how friendly they really are.

Below are the injury reports from philadelphiaeagles.com -As he said would be the case earlier in the week, cornerback Byron Maxwell was back out on the practice field on Thursday, and he was a full participant in the team’s training session.  “I’ll be out there,” said Maxwell, who turned his ankle on the first-quarter touchdown pass on Sunday that Buffalo wide receiver Sammy Watkins caught with Maxwell in coverage and safety Ed Reynolds over the top. Reynolds knocked into Maxwell on the play, causing the injury. “Everything is going to be OK,” he said earlier this week.  That’s good news, because the Eagles face the most diverse and explosive group of wide receivers when the Cardinals come to town. Veteran Larry Fitzgerald will someday be a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but for now he’s terrorizing the NFL to the tune of 96 receptions, 1,088 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games this season. Speedster John Brown has 55 receptions for 895 yards and five touchdowns and Michael Floyd has 40 catches, 652 yards and six scores. “They’ve got a lot of guys that can play ball,” said Maxwell, who did not train on the field on either Tuesday or Wednesday. “They’re playing good football right now.”  So are the Eagles, who have won two straight games in December to pull into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East.  “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing, but we’ve got two tough wins that we’ve put together and we’ve got to continue to do that,” Maxwell said. “The mentality of this team is getting better, getting tougher. The sky is the limit.”  Only one Eagle was listed as a non-participant in Thursday’s training session, and that was defensive Vinny Curry who missed practice due to an illness.  Ten Eagles were listed a full participants: Maxwell (ankle), wide receiver Jordan Matthews (back), guard Allen Barbre (calf), quarterback Sam Bradford (left shoulder), tackle Lane Johnson (shoulder, ankle), defensive tackle Bennie Logan (knee), cornerback Eric Rowe (ankle), linebacker Marcus Smith(hamstring), defensive end Cedric Thornton (ankle) and guard Matt Tobin (knee) – philadelphiaeagles.com.

Arguably the two biggest threats on each side of the ball for Arizona were listed as limited on Thursday’s injury report. Veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was limited for the second straight day with an ankle injury while cornerback Patrick Peterson was upgrade from not participating to a limited participant on Thursday with an ankle injury.  Several other notable players appeared on Arizona’s injury report as well, as safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) and defensive tackles Cory Redding (Ankle) and Frostee Rucker (Ankle/Illness) missed practice. Cornerback Jerraud Powers was also limited with a calf injury – philadelphiaeagles.com.

This particular game is about defense for me.  Whichever team can impose their will on that side of the ball they will win the game.  The turnover battle will be the key stat come Sunday night.  The Eagles secondary will need to be on high alert.  I think the Cardinals have the best WR group in the league.  Fitzgerald has torched the Eagles in the past so they need to lock him up.  What makes the Cardinals so tough is even if you do lock up Fitzgerald, they have Michael Floyd paired with John and Jaron Brown (not related) who can take the top off the defense.  Steve Keim their GM really put together a dominate group of WRs.  This will be another good test for Eric Rowe.  He must pull off of his experience the last few weeks and back to the Detroit game.

The Cardinals have an opportunistic defense.  Sam Bradford will need to take care of the football.  The Cardinals have one of my favorite players in the league.  A guy the Eagles should have drafted in Deone Buchanon.  He’s a down hill physical safety that plays the ILB position.  The Cardinals technically aren’t in their nickel package, but he is so physical it allows them to play with 3 safeties.  I expect him to be moved around and spend a lot of time on Zach Ertz.  Bradford will need to locate him pre-snap.

Like I mentioned before the Cardinals to have a physical team but they do have some position areas where the Eagles could impose their will.  For years the Cards haven’t been able to run the football.  With Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson out for the year the Eagles should be able to turn their attention to Carson Palmer.  They will try to run the ball but I expect 40 plus throws from Palmer when it’s all said and done.  The Eagles should be able to get to Palmer with out blitzing.  The last few weeks the rush has gotten home.  Palmer is an outstanding QB but like most guys he doesn’t want to be moved off his spot.  Their OL is good not great.  Eagles should be able to make some plays.

Prediction – Sal Palantonio from ESPN said he has a “very good feeling” about the Eagles in this game.  I’ve been very impressed with how the Eagles have responded.  They have showed the fight I didn’t think they had.  In the end I just think the Cardinals are too much for the Eagles to handle.  I think this will be a knock down drag out game.  A physical game from start to finish.  In the end they make more plays than the Eagles. Eagles 17 – Cardinals 24

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