The Arizona Cardinals have proven during their recent hot streak that they can win without Larry Fitzgerald carrying them on their backs, and they can win without particularly strong play at quarterback and they can win without the running game rolling on all—or any—cylinders.
And that likely scares the hell out of Andy Reid and his coaching staff because it means there's no clear formula for how to beat a team that has won seven of its last eight games.
Let's break it down anyway.
Stay away from Patrick Peterson
The Seahawks and Patriots made that mistake and didn't adjust, and as a result, Peterson shut down Sidney Rice and Brandon Lloyd. It's obvious that the 2011 first-round pick has improved dramatically in coverage headed into his second year, so I'm hoping that Michael Vick and Marty Mornhinweg have thrown away the tapes from his rookie campaign.
Jeremy Maclin's presence is crucial, because with Peterson likely dealing with DeSean Jackson, Maclin would have a chance to go nuts against William Gay. The veteran Gay has had a tough time with Braylon Edwards and Wes Welker this year, but Maclin could kick it up another notch.
Regardless, the Eagles have been too susceptible to turnovers this year to push their luck with the extremely talented Peterson. And while they're at it, they should probably have Chas Henry keep his punts away from Peterson too. It's just a matter of time before he takes another one to the house.
Continue to maintain a balanced attack
The Eagles have dealt with two very challenging defenses already this year, but Terrell Suggs was out for Baltimore and the Browns aren't as strong up front as Arizona is. Thus, this will be the toughest front Vick will have faced thus far, with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett likely to wreak havoc against Philly's depleted offensive line.
The key will be to keep giving it to LeSean McCoy.
Yeah, what I'm saying is, last week wasn't a one-game exception to Philadelphia's policy against using running backs to their full potential. Amazingly, the Eagles ran it nearly as much as they threw it against the Ravens, but they'll need to repeat that in order to keep a fierce pass rush at bay in Glendale.
Take advantage of D'Anthony Batiste
The veteran offensive tackle is filling Levi Brown's shoes on Kevin Kolb's blind side, but Pro Football Focus rates him as the worst left tackle in the game two weeks in. Despite getting plenty of help, he's given up nine hurries on 75 pass-blocking snaps. And he's also been flagged three times too.
Simply put, he's in over his head.
Trent Cole drew a steady Michael Oher last week and the solid Joe Thomas the week prior. But watch for Cole to feast on Batiste Sunday. From a game-planning perspective, expect Jim Washburn and Juan Castillo to utilize stunts often and overload on the right side.
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