Date and Time: December 21st – 4:05 P.M.
Location: Glendare, AZ – State Farm Stadium
- Philadelphia: Jack Driscoll (OUT), Avonte Maddox (OUT), Darius Slay (OUT), Grayland Arnold (Questionable), Malik Jackson (Questionable))
- Kylie Fitts (OUT), Zane Gonzalez (OUT), Jordan Phillips (OUT), Jalen Thompson (OUT), Chase Edmonds (Questionable), Dre Kirkpatrick (Questionable), Justin Pugh (Questionable)
The Philadelphia Eagles travel to Arizona to take on the 7-6 Cardinals. For Arizona, it’s been an up and down season. They started out the year 6-3, but have gone 1-3 in their last 4 games. For Philadelphia, after defeating what was statistically the NFL’s number one defense, this game presents an opportunity to gain momentum and stay alive in the playoff race. The Cardinals lead the all-time series 59-56-5.
Eagles Matchup Overview
The big story with the Eagles over the last 2 weeks has been Jalen Hurts, who will be making his second career start. In the grand scheme of things, Hurts performance was what you’d want in a quarterback who is starting his first career game. Hurts completed 56.6% of his passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Hurts also ran for 106 yards. The thing most skeptics have pointed to, was the fact that there was no previous film on Hurts, which meant that the New Orleans defense didn’t know what to expect. That changes this week, as Hurts will face an Arizona defense that ranks 13th in total defense. The game-plan for Hurts this week will likely be similar to the “dink and dunk” type of offense we saw last week as Arizona’s defense, limits “explosive pass plays” at one of the top rates in the NFL (per SHARP). An area where Hurts likely will be successful again will be on the ground. Mobile QBs have given Arizona’s defense fits all season.
- Week 4: Teddy Bridgewater: 6 rushes – 32 yards – 1 TD (Arizona Loss)
- Week 7: Russell Wilson: 6 rushes – 84 yards (Arizona Win in OT)
- Week 9: Tua Tagovailoa: 7 rushes – 35 yards (Arizona Loss)
- Week 10: Josh Allen: 7 rushes – 38 yards (Arizona Win)
- Week 11: Russell Wilson: 10 rushes for 42 yards (Arizona Loss)
- Week 12 Cam Newton: 9 rushes for 46 yards (Arizona Loss)
Hurts wasn’t alone in his dazzling display on the ground though. Miles Sanders found the endzone on two separate occasions, including an 82 yard touchdown run. Sanders will be key in this game, as Arizona likely will deploy a spy on Hurts to key in on taking him away on the ground. In that case, because of what will be taken away from the Arizona defense by them keying in on Hurts as a runner, Sanders should have opportunities throughout the afternoon to break free on the ground. This is an Arizona defense that hasn’t allowed a 100 yard rusher all season. With the Eagles coming to town, that could change.
Elsewhere on the Eagles offense, Matt Pryor will get the start at right tackle after Jack Driscoll was ruled out for the rest of the 2020 season with an MCL sprain. This will make the 13th different offensive line combination in 14 games for Philadelphia. This unit will be tasked with stopping an Arizona defense that racked up 8 sacks last week against the Giants.
Defensively, it’ll be a long day for the Philadelphia secondary. Injuries have completely ravaged that unit and if the pass rush is unable to get home, DeAndre Hopkins could have a day. And against a mobile QB like Kyler Murray, the Eagles could struggle. Lamar Jackson and Daniel Jones have both rushed for over 90 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles defense this year.
For Arizona, this matchup will hinge on their offense. The Eagles top two corners are out and they’ve (the Eagles) struggled with mobile QBs for most of the season. The game is ripe for picking for Arizona.
Kyler Murray has completed 67% of his passes for 3231 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. His season has mirrored the entire team’s season, as both have been up and down. In this game, Murray’s ability to break the pocket and gain positive yardage will show, and show itself in a big way if the Eagles cannot get pressure. The Arizona rushing attack ranks 4th in the league. The backfield has been led by Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds.
Elsewhere, the Arizona passing attack could have a day against an Eagles secondary that will be missing Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox. Jalen Mills will likely get the matchup with DeAndre Hopkins, one of Michael Jacquet or Kevon Seymour will draw Christian Kirk, and Nickell Robey-Coleman will be tasked with covering the veteran Larry Fitzgerald. This could be a tough afternoon for the Eagles back end.
Defensively, Arizona ranks in the top 10 against the pass, but have struggled a bit against the run, ranking 18th. The defense ranks 5th in pressure rate (behind Philadelphia who ranks 4th) and 5th in blitz rate. As stated, last week against the Giants, they racked up 8 sacks. Haason Reddick is currently having a career year. Reddick has 10 sacks, 13 TFL, and 15 QB hits. Of those 10 sacks, 5 came last week. It’s already a huge plus having a QB with the mobility of Jalen Hurts but, in this game specifically, it’s that much more important.
In the secondary the Cardinals are led by Budda Baker. This secondary isn’t terrible by any stretch, but it isn’t the greatest either. They’re a pretty middle of the pack bunch. Baker is an instinctual safety who can play down in the box and deep zones. Baker has been sent on a blitz on 60 different times (according to Pro Football Reference). Jalen Hurts must be aware where Baker is aligned on every snap because Baker is a legitimate game changer on defense.
Doug Pederson’s offense featured several RPOs and designed runs for Jalen Hurts. As stated, the game-plan this week will likely feature more of the same, but it will have to be tempered in a sense due to the speed the Arizona defense possesses at linebacker with Isaiah Simmons, Jordan Hicks, and De’Vondre Campbell. Pederson will have to commit to Miles Sanders on the ground against an Arizona rush defense that ranks 18th in the league. Commitment to the run game will also allow the 13th offensive line combination of the year to ease into the game. For Jim Schwartz, he simply CANNOT allow his corners to be put on an island in this game. The defense against the pass should utilize heavy zone. Just like last week, Schwartz doesn’t have the wiggle room to get imperious. He must put his young guns in the secondary in positions to be successful.
I think this game has the potential to develop into a offensive shootout. Hurts mobile ability gives his offense a step up on a Cardinals defense that struggles against opposing running attacks. For Murray, his ability to break the pocket may neutralize the Eagles surging pass rush. The Eagles will likely deploy a spy in the form of Davion Taylor or Alex Singleton to stop Murray on the ground. Having T.J. Edwards back will also be huge advantage in the Eagles rush defense.
Ultimately, looking at the success the Eagles had on the ground last week, the fact that Arizona struggles with their rush defense, and the Eagles ability to contain opposing running backs, I think the Eagles will find a way to pull this out.
Bold Prediction: Kevon Seymour snags an interception
Pick: Eagles 35, Cardinals 28