Prior to Week 8, the Cardinals had not scored more than 25 points in a game. Since then, the Cards has scored at least 27 points each game. Last week they had a season high 40 points in the win over the Colts. Arizona has had at least 332 yards of offense in each of the last 4 games. The Cards had fewer yards than that in 4 of the first 7 games.
So what gives?
Has the Cardinals offense gotten better? Or is this due to playing some struggling defenses?
I think you can argue both ways. The schedule in recent weeks has been soft. But you can also see changes. Rookie RB Andre Ellington didn’t have more than 7 carries in a game until the recent hot streak. In the past 4 games, he’s averaging more than 11 carries per game. WR Michael Floyd is playing his best football of the season. The offense isn’t turning the ball over. Carson Palmer has had 4 of his 5 highest QB rating games of the year in the recent stretch.
If the Cardinals offense is truly playing at a high level, the Eagles defense is in for a big challenge. Most of the talk in the past few days has been about the Cards defense going up against the Eagles offense. I trust Chip Kelly, Nick Foles, Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson and the Biggies up front to find ways to move the ball and score some points.
The bigger concern for me is shutting down the Cards offense. Palmer is a veteran QB. The Eagles this year are 1-5 against veteran QBs.
vs Philip Rivers – L
vs Alex Smith – L
vs Peyton Manning – L
vs Eli Manning – W
vs Tony Romo – L
vs Eli Manning – L
The wins came against RG3, Mike Glennon, Eli, Terrelle Pryor, Scott Tolzien, and RG3.
The flip side of this is that Palmer isn’t as good a QB as the other veterans listed above. I know Eagles fans love to rip on Eli and Romo, but those guys are good QBs. Palmer has his moments, but he’s not at their level.
The Eagles defense has played better since the Denver debacle. No offense has scored more than 21 points in that stretch. The Cardinals might be the biggest challenge since they have 2 big, talented WRs, a good slot guy, an athletic TE, an explosive runner and a veteran QB. The one thing Arizona doesn’t have…a good O-line. They rank 29th in pass protection per MMQB. Palmer has been sacked 30 times. That is the 2nd highest total of his career (and we’ve still got 5 games to go!).
I hope Bill Davis looks back at the Dallas game. He challenged his CBs to come up big against Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Davis was able to limit the Dallas run game and get pressure on Romo. I’d like to see that type of gameplan this week. I would rather see Davis be aggressive and take some chances than to sit back. If I’m Arizona, I’m throwing slants and fades left and right and challenging the Eagles corners.
The Eagles must get pressure on Palmer. He has thrown more than twice as many picks as all Eagles QBs combined (15 to 7). If you can get him to feel the heat, Palmer will take some chances. The front seven must come up big.
Dealing with the Cardinals receivers will be a challenge for the Eagles secondary. Last year that was a disaster, but this year the scheme is better and the players aren’t nearly as confused. Bradley Fletcher returns to action and that will help. Remember that he was on the Rams previously and faced Fitz and the Cards receivers twice a year. The scheme might have changed, but if Brad can offer any clues, it could help a lot.
A good game from the Eagles defense would be huge in the team beating the Cards and their hot offense.
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The Eagles are coming off the bye week. Andy Reid was gold with the bye week. He did a good job of self-scouting and making some changes. The frustrating part is that he didn’t do that better from week to week.
Kelly has done a good job with making adjustments. The question for him is what will he do coming out of the bye. Will Kelly have some wrinkles for the offense? Will he just focus on cleaning up some existing issues? I’m not expecting anything too major, but we’ll see.
The one wrinkle that I am curious about is mixing in Michael Vick as a runner in some situations. I didn’t think that would happen, but Vick told the press he would do it and was coy when asked about whether anything had been planned. If he’s willing and the situation is right, maybe Vick could be a good role player. Those QB sweeps from the first Giants game were really cool plays.
We also might see more of Brad Smith in the offense. He only had one play vs WAS. I could see the coaches coming up with specific plays for Smith. Let’s see what the guy can do.
Will the bye week hurt the Eagles in terms of momentum? The Birds have won 3 straight games. The rest was nice, but you don’t want the team to lose any momentum. During the Reid era, the Eagles only had one winning streak heading into the bye week and that was in 2004, the Super Bowl year. I have no idea what to expect in this area.