By Kevin McGuire
It has been a few years since the Philadelphia Eagles have defeated the Arizona Cardinals. However the trends appear to be swinging in favor of Carson Wentz and the Eagles and away from Carson Palmer and the Cards. Sunday afternoon’s game at Lincoln Financial Field will be a good one for the Eagles to see if they can avoid a letdown after a solid start – the way they experienced a year ago. Here’s a look at the Cardinals as they make their way to Philadelphia this week.
The start of the 2017 season has already been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Cardinals. After splitting their first two games on the road, Arizona split their next two games at home to enter this week with a .500 record. Arizona is coming off a 7-8-1 season after three straight double-digit win seasons.
The Cardinals have won five of the last six meetings with the Eagles, including a 40-17 victory in 2015. That was the next-to-last game coached by Chip Kelly for the Eagles.
Cardinals on Offense
The Cardinals have two very familiar players still going for them with veteran quarterback Carson Palmer and future hall of fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has already shown an ability to make spectacular catches at times this season, and the combination of Palmer and Fitzgerald can still pose a threat to an Eagles secondary that has been bit by some big plays through the air in recent weeks. Arizona owns the 20th-ranked total offense, but the league’s second-best passing offense. This despite giving up a league-high 17 sacks, which should bode well for the Eagles’ defensive effort. Don’t expect much out of Arizona’s running game. The Cardinals rank 31st in rushing offense and have just one rushing touchdown.
Cardinals on Defense
Passing against the Cardinals is not easy. Opposing quarterbacks this season have a combined completion percentage of just 59.3 percent against Arizona, the sixth-worst opposing completion percentage allowed. Having Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu patrolling the secondary helps lead that defense against the pass. The Cardinals also make it difficult to gain much yardage on the ground as well, holding opponents to 88 rushing yards per game so far.
The Cardinals will be down a starting linebacker. Marcus Golden, who played on the outside, was lost for the rest of the season to a torn ACL injury.
Cardinals Players to Watch
Haason Reddick, Linebacker: Arizona’s rookie linebacker should be familiar to Eagles fans. The former Temple standout was taken by Arizona in the first round of the NFL Draft last spring (in Philly), and he is already starting for the Cardinals. He had just three tackles the last two weeks after picking up 15 in the first two games of the season.
J.J. Nelson, Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald may still be the top star in the passing game, but J.J. Nelson could be an issue after getting back on the field against the 49ers after a hamstring injury. Nelson caught five passes for 120 yards against the Colts.
The Cardinals are a bit of a weird team. Where they used to be the kind of team you may not have wanted to get in a shootout with, it seems a low-scoring game favors them this season. Both of Arizona’s wins this year have come when the Cardinals scored fewer than 19 points. The Arizona offensive line woes should be a focus for the Eagles defense, and that could lead to establishing the tone for the game. The way the Eagles have been playing, this is a game the Eagles should manage to win.