Week 3 of the NFL season is here, and after scratching and clawing their way to a win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2, the Eagles stand as one of just six teams at 2-0. Their opponent today is one of the other five 2-0 teams, the Arizona Cardinals.
It's time to break down the Cardinals and try to come up with a game plan to get the Eagles to 3-0.
Surprisingly, Arizona has been able to move the ball well through two games, including last week's stunning upset win over the New England Patriots, in which former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb was behind center.
You'll recall Week 1 starter John Skelton suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks and had to miss the Patriots game. Kolb only went 15/27 for 140 yards, threw for a touchdown and ran for a touchdown against the Patriots.
Despite some missed throws, Kolb did well managing the game and sustaining drives against New England. Now he faces a Philadelphia defense that held Joe Flacco in check last week after he exploded against Cincinnati in Week 1.
What's working against Kolb, however, is his offensive line, which looks like one of the worst after two weeks. Left tackle D'Anthony Batiste looks like a complete liability. Philadelphia may get a lot of pressure coming from the backside if the defensive ends can have their way with Batiste. This is certainly a matchup to watch as the game progresses.
The Cardinals also have two offensive linemen on the injury report—their two guards Daryn Colledge (shoulder) and Adam Snyder (elbow). Colledge is listed as probable, Snyder is questionable. Colledge was a full participant all week, Snyder was limited all week.
The two running backs also reside on the injury report, which seems to be the norm. Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams both listed with knee injuries, both listed as probable.
Neither back ran particularly well against New England. Wells rushed 14 times for just 44 yards, while Williams rushed 10 times for just 13 yards. This Eagles defense has been susceptible to giving up big runs with the Wide 9, but I don't expect either running back to make a huge impact.
As far as wide receivers go, the name of the game is shadow Larry Fitzgerald. New England did a fantastic job of that, holding the star receiver to just one catch for four yards. Fitzgerald was the second-most targeted receiver in that game, with five.
Only Todd Heap (nine) had more than Fitzgerald. Heap also led the Cardinals in receiving last week with five catches for 62 yards. No other Cardinal had more than 24 yards receiving.
Watch Andre Roberts. At times, he'll step up and make plays, but he has been somewhat inconsistent. And against this Eagles secondary, he'll have a tough time getting around—especially if Nnamdi Asomugha is covering him and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shadows Fitzgerald.
Heap, however, is questionable for this week's game with a knee injury. He did not practice Wednesday, and was limited Thursday and Friday.
The Cardinals even broke out some Wildcat action last week, lining up Patrick Peterson at quarterback, faking a handoff to LaRod Stephens-Howling, in motion, and running left side for a gain of 17. It will be interesting to see if they break the 'Cat out again this week.
Overall, this offense can be a decent one, but sloppy offensive line play and so-so quarterback play will slow this team down.
What some people may not realize is that Arizona actually has a pretty good defense. Like the Ravens, the Cardinals run a 3-4 defense, with Calais Campbell, Dan Williams and Darnell Dockett manning the front line and O'Brien Schofield, Daryl Washington, Paris Lenon and Sam Acho lined up at linebacker.
Schofield is on the injury report with a knee injury, but is probable after practicing in full on Friday.
They will face an Eagles offensive line that will look a bit different from the first two weeks of the season. Center Jason Kelce is out with a knee injury, likely out for the season. He will be replaced by Dallas Reynolds, who has spent time on the Eagles' practice squad in previous seasons.
King Dunlap is also out with a hamstring injury, meaning Demetress Bell will get his first regular-season start as an Eagle.
They will face a Cardinals defense that has already registered seven sacks in two games. Lenon and Campbell each have two, while Washington, Acho and Quentin Groves each have one.
This team will get pressure of its own. This could be a battle of the front sevens.
Arizona's secondary has also played well, thus far, led by the aforementioned Peterson. One of the better safety pairings also resides in Arizona, in Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson, who both do a nice job over the top.
Points may be at a premium today.
Note: Both safeties are also on the injury report. Rhodes is probable with a foot injury, but was a full practice participant all week. Wilson, however, is questionable with an ankle injury, and was limited all week in practice.
This game will feature two of the top tackling linebackers in the league in Daryl Washington and DeMeco Ryans. Washington leads the Cardinals with 23 total tackles (21 solo), Ryans is second on the Eagles with 13 total (12 solo). Nate Allen currently leads the Eagles in tackles with 15 total (13 solo).
Lenon has also slowly developed into a strong player, currently registering 17 total tackles (15 solo), while also adding two sacks. Bell and Reynolds will certainly be tested all day against this strong front seven.
The Cardinals also catch a bit of a break, as they will not have to face Jeremy Maclin, who is out with a hip injury. Damaris Johnson will start in his place. I do like Johnson, however. I love his speed, and he could cause some problems in the Cards' secondary.
As mentioned throughout this article, the key matchups will be in the trenches for both teams. That said, I think the Eagles' defensive line will have more success against the Cardinals' offensive line than the Cardinals' defensive line will have against the Eagles' offensive line.
Rodgers-Cromartie has the capability to shadow Fitzgerald and shut him down most of the game, taking away a majority of the Cardinals offense.
This game will be closer than people think, but I like the Eagles to squeak by the Cardinals and get to 3-0.
Eagles 24, Cardinals 14
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