Player I’ll be watching:
McManus: Nate Allen.
Did you know that through 11 games, Allen has only been charged with two missed tackles? He exceeded that number by Week 3 last year (and missed 13 tackles overall). It really has been something to watch the former second-round pick transform into a steady, effective safety after a couple really shaky seasons. It’s to be determined whether he can keep it up, but there’s no question Allen is playing the best football of his career right now.
“I think Nate has continued week‑in and week out to take big strides and just playing solid football,” said Billy Davis. “It’s not all these big plays and everybody says oh, there is Nate. It’s just down in and down out, Nate is taking care of his job and it’s helping the defense.”
Sunday will present Allen and the rest of the secondary with a pretty stiff test. Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are large, talented receivers that have nearly 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns between them this season. The corners will need the help of Allen and Patrick Chung to keep this duo corralled.
Kapadia: DeSean Jackson
The Eagles’ speedy receiver is on pace for the best year of his career. But this week presents a unique challenge as he could be shadowed by shutdown corner Patrick Peterson. If there’s any corner in the league who has the speed to keep up with Jackson, it’s Peterson. The third-year player and two-time Pro Bowler ran a 4.34 coming out of college.
The Eagles lead the NFL with 56 pass plays of 20+ yards. The Cardinals have only given up 29 (seventh-fewest). Big plays require a number of elements. The protection has to hold up. The throw has to be on target. And the receiver has to create separation. If the Eagles can hit on downfield throws against Arizona, they should be able to connect on them against any defense in the NFL.
Prop bet of the week:
LeSean McCoy rushing yards — 76. Whaddya got?
McManus: I’m saying under. I chose that number because that has been McCoy’s average over the last five games. In three of those contests he was held to 55 rushing yards or less. I’m curious to see if Chip Kelly adjusts his ground attack so that it features less zone read.
The league’s leading rusher faces the No. 2 rushing defense in the league. Arizona is allowing just 81.3 yards per game on the ground. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made it known that he is more concerned with stopping McCoy than he is Nick Foles. Expect the Cards to key heavy on the ground game, as most Eagles’ opponents have this season.
Kapadia: I’m with you, T-Mac. I hate to read too much into body language, but when I asked McCoy earlier this week about why he’s seeing so much traffic behind the line of scrimmage, he shot me a look that seemed to say: I’m glad someone noticed!
Arizona has the front-seven talent to win one-on-one matchups against the Eagles’ offensive line and tight ends. The Cardinals really trust their cornerbacks to cover, so if they have to devote extra bodies to stopping McCoy, they’ll do so.
I think Kelly probably has a few tricks up his sleeve, but McCoy could have a tough time breaking off big runs, so I’m taking the under.
McManus: Eagles 24, Cardinals 23.
I was close to calling this an Eagles loss. I believe the disruptive Arizona defense will drag Foles back down to Earth some and, as stated above, I think the ground game will be contained for the most part. Tough matchup overall for the Eagles. The Cardinals, though, are coming off a big win over Indianapolis and now travel to the East Coast for a 1 o’clock game in Philly. Possible letdown situation, even for a Cards team that is trying to make a playoff push. Meanwhile, the Eagles are healthy and fresh after a week off.
Kelly had an additional week to prepare, the players had a week to rest, and that should give the Eagles a slight edge against a pretty good Arizona team.
Kapadia: Eagles 20, Cardinals 14.
I see a comfort level with the Eagles’ defense that I believe will make the difference in this game. Against the top QBs in the league, Billy Davis’ group will probably still struggle. But I’m not buying the hype surrounding Carson Palmer and the Cardinals’ offense. Palmer’s thrown the third-most interceptions in the league, and the Eagles have 13 picks (tied for eighth-most) on the season.
Rashard Mendenhall has been unimpressive, and Andre Ellington is banged-up (knee). If the Eagles can make the Cardinals one-dimensional, they should be able to win some matchups up front and get to Palmer.
Offensively, it’s all about taking care of the ball. Maybe the Eagles will surprise and move the ball up and down the field on the Cardinals. But I’m a believer in Arizona’s defense. Foles is going to take some hits, but he needs to protect the ball at all costs and realize punts are not the worst thing in the world. In other words, he needs to play how he’s been playing.
Look for a close game throughout. The Eagles’ defense produces a second-half turnover that sets up the game-winning score.