The Cardinals come to town on Sunday. The 7-4 Cardinals, that is. I’m shocked at the season they have had. I just didn’t see that team coming together and playing well. Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer have resurrected the offense. The defense has taken another step forward from last year and is one of the best units in the league. This isn’t a crappy Cardinals team that the Eagles should roll with ease. This game will be a test.
Here is an excellent piece by Doug Farrar on the Cardinals defense. He did film study himself, but also got good info from Greg Cosell. Per Cosell, the Cards blitz more than any team in the NFL. We expected the Raiders to blitz a lot, but they didn’t for due to the fear of getting burned due to the tempo and matchups. The Cards will blitz. This will be a big test for Foles.
Arizona has 29 sacks, just 5 more than the Eagles. The blitz does generate a lot of turnovers. They have at least one in every game and are 4th in the league in takeaways. Foles has yet to throw an INT. Can he keep that streak going against a team that has a speedy back seven like the Cardinals?
Dave, aka Southern Philly on BGN/Twitter, wrote an excellent piece on a weak link in the secondary. CB Jerraud Powers is a player the Eagles should be able to exploit if they go after him.
Arizona is 8th in points allowed and 8th in yards allowed. Football Outsiders has them ranked 2nd in defense with the DVOA rankings. This is a good group. But let’s not make them out to be some juggernaut that can’t be dealt with. They have allowed more 30-point games (3) than the Eagles (2).
They have given up more TD passes than the Eagles, 19 to 17. The Cardinals have shut down some weak offenses and backup QBs.
The Eagles are in for a big challenge, but so are the Cardinals. Arizona has only faced one elite offense this year. The Saints lit them up for 423 yards and 31 points. The Eagles have some serious weapons and it will be interesting to see which team is able to get then advantage.
I hope the Cardinals are able to get some pressure on Foles. We know he can pick apart a defense when he’s given a clean pocket. It would be good to see how he responds when he’s got more than occasional pressure. QBs must show they can handle adversity within a game. QBs need a short memory. If Foles makes a dumb throw or bad decision, let it go and move on. Don’t let that mistake hurt you twice.
Another test angle to this game is whether Foles gets caught up in the situation. This is a home game. The Eagles won in the last home game, but had struggled at The Linc prior to that. Will that be a factor? Also, will Foles feel any extra pressure since the Eagles are battling for playoff position? Dallas plays on Thanksgiving. That means Foles and the Eagles will know if Sunday’s game is to tie for 1st place or take sole possession of it.
Kelly likes his players to have blinders on. He wants them to treat every game, every opponent and every situation the same. Kelly wants consistent excellence and that will only happen when players can focus directly on the task at hand and not get caught up in the hype and trappings that come with big games.
While I’m talking about this game as a test for Foles, it isn’t a pass-fail type of situation. A loss by the Eagles or bad game from Foles does not sink him. It just gives us another piece of evidence to consider. Then we’d focus on how Foles played the next week, trying to see if he could bounce back from a poor showing. The flip side of that is true as well. If Foles plays well in this game, we’ll watch the next week to see how he responds.
At the end of the season, we’ll review all the evidence and figure out just what we think of Foles.
Truth be told, that’s why the Eagles organization is tickled pink right now. They get to see how Foles, as well as the other young guys on this roster, react when the pressure is ratcheted up. Five games (at least) to dip your players and coaches in hot water and see how they respond. That’s invaluable for an organization trying to shape a contender.
Back in 2000, Andy Reid’s 2nd year, the Eagles started off 5-4. The team then went 6-1 down the stretch. They won a pair of overtime games and another close game. The only loss was a tight game with the Titans. That young team got to the playoffs and was ready for the situation. They dominated the Bucs in the Wild Card game before getting whipped by the Giants in the Divisional round. It was abundantly clear that Donovan McNabb was a stud QB and that Reid was a top flight coach.
I think we’re all pretty sold on Chip Kelly. Foles and the players are the guys who have a great opportunity in the final 5 weeks of the regular season. They get a chance to show what they can do in some meaningful games.
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My PE.com column posted today. I covered the “test” angle there, but also wrote short stuff about a variety of items. Maybe the most interesting thing to me was seeing how Kelly is getting production from the passing game without having to throw the ball over and over and over.