Nick Foles-Led Philadelphia Eagles Offense in Store for Biggest Challenge Yet

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 27, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 17: Quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes the ball against the Washington Redskins during the second half of their 24-16 win at Lincoln Financial Field on November 17, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

If Nick Foles truly is a franchise quarterback and his new-look Philadelphia Eagles truly are for real, this is the week to prove it.

Good teams don't often lose coming off the bye week, especially at home. In order to avoid that fate, Foles and the Eagles will have to get past one of the only teams in the league that is hotter than they are. 

The Eagles have won three straight, Foles is coming off the highest-rated month in NFL history and their frequently maligned defense has held seven consecutive opponents to 21 points or fewer—the longest streak in the league. 

Their Week 13 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, have won four straight games and have come out on top by 13 points or more in three of them. During that stretch, they have had the league's top-ranked D. They have also scored at least 27 points in each of those games, ranking them fourth in the league in scoring. 

Least points allowed since Week 8
Points allowedYards allowed (rank)
1. San Francisco 49ers491145 (5th)
2. Arizona Cardinals621040 (1st)
3. Seattle Seahawks631251 (9th)
4. Philadelphia Eagles641708 (22nd)
Pro Football Reference

The Eagles offense is considerably more efficient when LeSean McCoy and the running game is rolling. Philly leads the league in total rushing yards and yards per rushing attempt, but the Cards are one of only three NFL teams that have held opposing backs to 3.5 or fewer yards per carry. 

A Philadelphia win would be a symbol—to some, anyway—that this franchise has gotten back to its winning ways from the heart of the Andy Reid era. After all, Reid managed to win 13 consecutive post-bye games in Philly between 1999 and 2011. The team's only post-bye loss this century took place last year, during one of the most tumultuous seasons in franchise history. 

It isn't just about sending a message, though, because this game could have major playoff implications. Philly will enter Sunday with either a half-game lead or trailing by a half-game deficit in the tight NFC East, but Chip Kelly's team is also one game back of Arizona in the wild-card race.

An Eagles victory combined with a St. Louis win over San Francisco would temporarily place the Eagles in a playoff position, regardless of what Dallas does against Oakland on Thursday. 

These teams have a lot in common, actually, which adds intrigue to the matchup. Neither was taken seriously earlier in the season because of their respective quarterback situations, but they've since gotten into grooves. 

There's also still some doubt about both teams. This will be the first really good defense the Eagles have faced since they managed just 16 points against the Chiefs back in Week 3, and it will probably be the best team the Cards have met since they were easily disposed of by San Fran and Seattle in Weeks 6 and 7. 

Strength of last four wins
Opponent 1Bucs (3-8)Falcons (2-9)
Opponent 2Raiders (4-7)Texans (2-9)
Opponent 3Packers (5-5)Jags (2-9)
Opponent 4Redskins (3-8)Colts (7-4)
Total15-28-1 (.349)13-31-0 (.296)
Pro Football Reference

Regardless, they've both been hot enough that neither is going to sneak up on anybody, especially each other. 

The rosters have changed quite a bit since, and the coaching staffs are all new, but a lot of key players are left over from Arizona's dominant 27-6 victory over the Eagles last September. In that game—which featured Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb in the quarterback spotsLarry Fitzgerald had 114 yards on nine catches. 

This Eagles defense has tightened up quite a bit since. They're still vulnerable on the back end, but a guy like Brandon Boykin—who was toasted by Fitzgerald in his third NFL game last year—is better prepared for the seven-time Pro Bowler this time around. 

Life is rarely easy on first-year head coaches, but Kelly and Bruce Arians have both gotten off to surprisingly strong starts. There might, however, only be room for one or the other in the 2013 playoffs. What happens on Sunday could decide who makes it through and who falls short.