By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles are back in action this week after taking a bye week to celebrate their first home win in quite some time. This week the Eagles hope to keep the good times rolling at home when the Arizona Cardinals, winners of four straight games after Sunday’s big victory over the Indianapolis Colts, come to town.
The Arizona Cardinals have won four straight games as they head to Philadelphia. Those four wins have come against teams expected to do well this season but are struggling (Atlanta, Houston), one of the worst teams in the NFL (Jacksonville) and a team that has been up and down all season (Indianapolis). So what exactly are we to make of the Cardinals, who are in the playoff hunt despite an 0-3 record in NFC West play? Right now, they are a confident and dangerous bunch at 7-4.
Cardinals on Offense
The Arizona Cardinals are starting to find a rhythm on offense with a veteran quarterback providing a renewed spark. Carson Palmer is hit or miss with his touchdowns and interceptions, but he is capable of taking advantage of a lagging defense. With guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to throw too, the Cardinals have a decent pass offense, ranked 14th in the NFL. The running game is a bit shallow right now. Andre Ellington is Arizona’s running back and he is capable of picking up yards on the ground and hauling in passes and busting a big play.
Cardinals on Defense
The Eagles will be facing one of the top defenses in the NFL. Arizona is ranked seventh in total defense and second against the run. In three of the past four weeks the Cardinals have held their opponent to fewer than 17 points. Arizona’s defense has recorded 15 sacks this season, so Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will be tested to continue with his accuracy and smart passes.
Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver: It should go without saying but the Cardinals have one of the league’s best wide receivers on their roster in Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald leads the team with eight touchdowns and is a go-to receiver inside the red zone. Having a second threat in Michael Floyd helps open the field up for Fitzgerald, who is dangerous every time he gets his rock solid hands on the football.
Patrick Petersen, Cornerback: Former LSU Tiger Patrick Petersen can hurt a team any number of ways. On defense, Petersen leads the Cardinals this season with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He also has deflected 13 passes in his direction. Throwing in his direction will be a tough test for Foles, who has avoided bad decisions so far this season.
This is a must-win game for the Eagles. With the NFC East looking as though it could come down to the wire with Dallas, every win in conference play will be critical when it comes to potential tie breakers. The Eagles need this win also to nudge ahead of the Cardinals in the playoff race, just in case. It will not be easy with Arizona finding a bit of a hot streak over the last month. This will be a true character game for the Eagles that could demonstrate what this team will be made of the rest of the year.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.