Three-And-Out: Eagles-Cardinals Predictions

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Player I’ll be watching

Kapadia: Jeremy Maclin

When Chip Kelly spoke during the offseason about the importance of Eagles wide receivers beating man coverage, he specifically brought up Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.

In last year’s meeting, Eagles wide receivers combined for seven catches and 104 yards against the Cardinals. They still won that game, but the offense averaged 4.2 yards per play. Nick Foles was sacked five times, and the Eagles were 5-for-16 on third down.

Kelly opted in the offseason to let DeSean Jackson go in favor of re-signing Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. Maclin leads the team with 27 catches for 445 yards, but he’s been targeted 60 times. He’s tied for the second-worst catch rate among wide receivers with 40 targets or more.

Plenty of that has to do with Foles’ inconsistent play. But quarterback and wide receiver clearly need to get on the same page. Maclin will have plenty of one-on-one opportunities in this game. Foles will need to recognize the Cardinals’ various blitzes, get rid of the ball on time and give Maclin opportunities to make plays. Maclin, in turn, will have to prove he can beat one of the league’s better corners on a consistent basis.

McManus: David Molk

Jason Kelce is on the mend and will reclaim the center spot before long. He’s listed as questionable this week but chances are Molk will get the call against the Cardinals.

“This is [Kelce’s] team. This is his offensive line. I’m biding my time and getting everything I can out of every single rep I get,” said Molk. “These are, as [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] likes to say, pieces of gold. These are platinum for me. I’m just trying to get as much as I can and build my resume I guess you could say.”

This week Kelly called Cardinals’ defensive lineman Dan Williams “as good of a nose guard as there is in the league.” The veteran tackle is at the core of an Arizona front that is ranked No. 1 in the NFL against the run. If Molk can hold his own against Williams, that resume will look all the better and the Eagles’ chances of leaving Arizona with a win will increase substantially.

“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s athletic. He’s got everything that you’d want out of a solid nose tackle,” said Molk. “He’s good. Solid player, without a doubt. It’s going to be fun.”

Over/under: 1.5 turnovers for Foles – Whaddya got?

Kapadia: Thanks to commenter jabostick for tallying the scores so far. I won last week, so we’re dead even at 3-3 on the over/unders. Does someone else want to let us know how we’re doing on the game predictions?

As for this one, I’ll take the over. Last year, everyone repeated 27 and 2. In the bye week, the magic number was 10 – as in number of turnovers by Foles. He’s thrown seven interceptions and has lost three fumbles. As a team, the Eagles have 14 turnovers, third-most in the NFL. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have 11 takeaways.

Some have theorized that Foles’ turnovers are tied to his focus on trying to avoid sacks. This game will be a good test of that. The Cardinals will get pressure on Foles with their blitzes. Can he consistently make good decisions and not give the ball away? We’ll see. But two turnovers from the QB would not surprise me.

McManus: I’ll try the under.

Big spot for Foles. Unlike the Giants two weeks ago, expect the Cardinals to load up to stop the run. That will put the onus on Foles to make it happen in the pass game. With a pair of quality corners in Peterson and Antonio Cromartie on the outside, look for him to attack the middle of the field; Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews could be targeted a healthy amount in this one.

Foles has been shaky so far this season but has dealt with the blitz fairly well, completing 56 percent of his passes (8.4 yards per attempt) with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a 100.2 quarterback rating against the blitz compared to a 78.3 QB rating when he is not blitzed, per Pro Football Focus. Todd Bowles likes to bring the heat. We’ll guess that Foles handles it well and takes care of the football for the most part on Sunday.


Kapadia: Eagles 21, Cardinals 17

I think this is going to be a low-scoring game. I’m slowly becoming a believer in the Eagles’ defense. I have been impressed with the way it’s generated a pass-rush in the last three games. Billy Davis’ game plan against the Giants was fantastic.

In Arizona, the Eagles get to face a pure pocket passer in Carson Palmer. And the Cardinals’ offensive line is mediocre. Look for Fletcher Cox to be disruptive and the outside linebackers to continue to add to their sack totals. Palmer will throw the ball up for grabs when he’s pressured. Things could get ugly if the Eagles’ defensive backs do a poor job of making plays on the ball against Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. But I don’t expect Arizona to be able to run the ball effectively, and I think the pass-rush will do enough to disrupt Palmer.

On the flip side, I don’t know what to make of the Eagles’ offense. That side of the ball just has to survive for a couple more weeks until Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis return. The Cardinals are banged-up, but have still played well. I’m not expecting the Eagles’ offense to be explosive, but it should make enough plays to give the Birds their sixth victory of the season.

McManus: Eagles 24, Cardinals 23

Darren Sproles is coming off an MCL sprain and was limited in practice this week. He is questionable for Sunday. Even if he plays, you wonder how effective he will be. Sproles was arguably the team’s MVP over the first six games, coming up with big play after  big play that helped turn the tide in the Eagles’ favor. Neither the offense nor special teams figures to be as dynamic if he is not a factor.

I agree that points won’t be easy to come by in this one, Sheil, and I’m guessing it goes down to the wire. The Eagles’ front seven is confident that it can get after Palmer. Billy Davis‘ crew has certainly proven itself capable, racking up 16 sacks over the last three games. We’ll guess that the pass rush generates a turnover late, allowing the Eagles to escape with a win.