Philadelphia Eagles' Most Critical Matchups Against Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia won their home-opener last week, beating the Baltimore Ravens 24-23 thanks to a late touchdown run by Michael Vick. Despite turning the ball over four times, Philadelphia is now 2-0 and preparing for a Cardinals team that pulled off the upset of the week last Sunday, beating the New England Patriots 20-18 in Foxborough.
Arizona's offense wasn't anything special last week, led by former-Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. However, a strong defense allowed the Cardinals to advance to 2-0.
Here are some of the most intriguing matchups in the Eagles' Week 3 showdown with the Cardinals.
Eagles O-Line vs. Cardinals D-Line
The Eagles offensive line has been bitten by the injury bug once again, losing center Jason Kelce for the year with a knee injury. Philadelphia re-signed Steve Vallos, who was cut by the Eagles before the season started, but it will be Dallas Reynolds who will start at center
Reynolds joins King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans on a line that has struggled at times this season and is now missing two regular starters (Jason Peters is also out for the year and was replaced by Dunlap).
Arizona has a strong defensive line that can create problems for Michael Vick and the Philadelphia offense.
Defensive end Calais Campbell had 10 tackles last week against New England, including two sacks and three quarterback hits. Campbell, along with Dan Williams and Darnell Dockett, has the ability to get a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which could mean that Vick takes a lot of hits this Sunday.
LeSean McCoy vs. Cardinals Front Seven
LeSean McCoy's ability to run the football allows the Eagles to set-up Michael Vick and the passing game, so McCoy needs to be able to find some space to run on Sunday. As mentioned before, the Eagles' offensive line could struggle against the Cardinals' line, which could make it harder for McCoy to find any holes.
Arizona also has a relatively solid linebacker unit that features O'Brien Schofield, Daryl Washington, Paris Lenon and Sam Acho. Acho will be coming off the edge and it will be up to King Dunlap to block him to allow McCoy time to get around the outside.
Eagles Receivers vs. Cardinals Secondary
It's no secret that the Eagles love to throw the football. They are second in the league in with 331.5 passing yards per game.
Michael Vick has a slew of weapons to throw to, such as DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy. However, Arizona has one of the best secondaries in the league, currently ranked 11th in pass defense.
The Cardinals have a mix of experience and youth in their secondary, with second-year playmaker Patrick Peterson at one cornerback spot and sixth-year veteran William Gay at the other. Completing the Arizona secondary are safeties Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes.
This Arizona defense will make it hard for Vick to find open receivers, which could lead to some forced passes and, therefore, interceptions.
Eagles Pass Rush vs. Cardinals O-Line
The Arizona offense hasn't done much this season, but they've done enough to win both of their first two games.
Arizona's offensive line was a huge problem a year ago, allowing Kevin Kolb to get sacked once every 9.4 dropbacks. This year, Kolb has been sacked only once in 36 dropbacks. But, if the Eagles can get pressure on Kolb, he can be forced into making mistakes.
The Eagles have one of the best pass rushes in the league. Their extremely deep and talented defensive line is led by Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Trent Cole. Babin will be lined up against rookie offensive tackle Bobby Massie, which could mean that he has a couple of sacks this weekend.
Eagles Secondary vs. Larry Fitzgerald
Don't let Larry Fitzgerald's stats so far this year fool you, he is still one of the best receivers in football.
Through two weeks, Fitzgerald has only five catches for 67 yards and he has not yet found the end zone.
Fitzgerald has historically played very well against Philadelphia, including catching seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns last year. Eagles fans can also look back to the 2008 NFC Championship game when Fitzgerald caught nine balls for 152 yards and three touchdowns, almost single-handedly eliminating the Eagles from the playoffs.
Having Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside this year will help the Eagles defend Fitzgerald. Safety Nate Allen missed last year's matchup with the Cardinals, so his presence should also help contain the Cardinals' dynamic playmaker.
At the end of this game on Sunday, one of the teams will have suffered their first loss of the 2012 season.
If the Eagles' offensive line can give Michael Vick time to throw and can provide holes for LeSean McCoy, then Philadelphia shouldn't have much of a problem this weekend.
Eagles 27, Cardinals 17
Follow @TimStoeckle on Twitter