The 4-8-1 Philadelphia Eagles are off to Arizona to face the 7-6 Cardinals in a game with playoff implications. After losing 3 in a row, the Cardinals beat the New York Giants last week 26-7. The Eagles pulled off a most improbable victory upsetting the New Orleans Saints 24-21. Will the Battle of the Birds be fought in the air or kept on the ground?
The Battle of Oklahoma
Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts both battled for the Oklahoma Sooners wearing #1. On Sunday, they will be battling each other in a game that likely comes down to who outshines the other.
Kyler Murray will make his 30th NFL start while Jalen Hurts will be making just his 2nd NFL start. The parallels continue as the “running quarterback” tag seems to linger in the background of their success. Murray has one game over 100 yards rushing while Hurts eclipsed that in his first start last week. In Hurts limited action he averaged 5.89 yards per attempt on the ground with Murrays career average at 6.93 YPA. Both are electric with their feet and the ability to keep plays alive. Murrays career 65.6 completion percentage would make him top 7 in the NFL history if not for only 1003 attempts. Hurts in roughly 5.5 quarters of action has a dreary 55.6%.
This Sunday the one who can move the ball through the air will be the victor.
Protect the Passer
Both offensive lines face tough matchups this week. The Eagles defensive line has lead the Eagles to #2 in the league in sacks but only 26th in hurries. The Cardinals defense is 8th in hurries while ranking 6th in sacks (37). Both defenses show a pressure percentage around 25%. The hurries stat shows feast or famine with the Eagles pass rush while the Cardinals are a more consistent group. The Cardinals offensive line is tied for 9th in the NFL in sacks allowed per game (1.6) this season. The Eagles offensive line ranks dead last in sacks allowed per game averaging 4.1. Now, keep in mind the Eagles gave up 0 sacks last week with Hurts starting and Peters out. Unfortunately, Jack Driscoll will be out for the season leadings to a 13th line combination in 14 games for Sunday.
Which team will be able to protect their quarterback Sunday? I am leaning Cardinals more then Eagles. Leaning is a stretch.
The Arizona Cardinals offense features DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk sprinkling in Andy Isabella. This group combined has 198 receptions for 2,237 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers total (Including DJax) stats are 133 catches for 1,559 and 10 Touchdowns. Travis Fulgham who leads the team with 33 catches 467 yards and 4 touchdowns played 11 snaps last week.
Jalen Hurts completed 6 passes to wide receivers last week. This is going to be huge advantage the Cardinals have in this game. Kyler Murray has players to throw the ball to whether in the pocket or out of the pocket. Jalen Hurts has no one.
Running the Football
When a backup quarterback or rookie quarter makes his first start their is a focus on running the football. Last week, the Eagles rushed 36 times for 246 yards but don’t be deceived by the numbers. Jalen Hurts accounts for 18 carriers and 106 yards of that which is doubtful to continue at that clip. The over under for Hurts going into the game was around 40 yards rushing. Miles Sanders is only 13 carries for 29 yards if you take away the 86 yard blast. The running game might not be as great as it seemed last week.
The Cardinals on the other hand are 5th in the league in rushing with 1,966 yards on the season. The are also 7th in attempts with an offense that actually focuses on letting the run develop the pass.
I want to believe the Hurts hype but I just cant yet. The Arizona Cardinals have been a very inconsistent bunch but they are a much better team then the Eagles. I expect the Eagles to have some success early defensively but ultimately the Cardinals have too many weapons on offense. Defensively they will put the clamps on as well wit an extra man in the box or spy for Hurts. They will probably go press man coverage and dare the Eagles receiver to win the battle. They haven’t won that battle all year so don’t think they do it Sunday. Playoffs? Maybe for the Cardinals.
Cardinals 27 – Eagles 13
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