PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to pass against the Arizona Cardinals during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 21-17. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
The Eagles travel to Arizona to take on the surprising 2-0 Cardinals Sunday
The loss to Arizona was possibly the Eagles' lowest point in 2011 as John Skelton engineered a late comeback to give them the victory. Michael Vick certainly played his worst game as a broken rib certainly seemed to affect him throughout the game. Despite a defensive touchdown by Asante Samuel the Cards were able to drive down the field when it mattered as Jaiquawn Jarrett was badly exposed. Both teams have undergone a number of changes since then however so let's see how they currently match up. The value out of ten at the bottom represents the advantage (or disadvantage) I believe the Eagles have in the game.
Eagles' pass protection against the Cardinals' pass rush
The fortunate thing for Demetress Bell is that he won't have the toughest test in his first week starting. Sam Acho is a promising player at ROLB but, despite the sack numbers, he only pressures the QB occasionally. Stats don't really tell the whole story with Acho who got six sacks last year but didn't register a hit and only had 12 other hurries in 210 rushes. Across from him O'Brien Schofield has struggled a little since he became the starter. Todd Herremans has not been at his best this season, especially in pass protection, but he has a favourable matchup Sunday. Inside should concern Eagles fans more as Danny Watkins has really struggled in pass protection in a year where he's supposed to be much better. Both Ahtya Rubin and Haloti Ngata had their way with the former fireman and Darnell Dockett has started the season on fire. Evan Mathis meanwhile should hold his own, but he gets the unenviable task of blocking Calais Campbell, certainly not an easy task. Finally to center where Dallas Reynolds draws Dan Williams. While Williams is good against the run (more on that later) he offers little in the pass rushing department and comes off the field in passing situations. Overall I'd say Reynolds and Herremans have advantages, Mathis and Bell draw stalemates and Watkins struggles.
Confidence - 6/10
Eagles' passing game against the Cardinals' pass defense
Jeremy Maclin's status could prove crucial to this game. If he is unable to go, the Cardinals will be able to employ a much improved Patrick Peterson on Desean Jackson which will at least reduce the Eagles' biggest threat. That will allow rookie Jamell Flemming to face off with fellow rookie Damaris Johnson on the other side which Arizona will surely be happy to take their chances with. Jason Avant should get a number of looks in this game as former Steeler William Gay mans the slot. He's ageing and has never been a particularly good player anyway. While Celek exploded against the Ravens, I expect him to come back down to earth this week as both Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes are very adept in man coverage. The two inside linebackers should also fair well too. Washington has the athleticism to match up with Lesean McCoy in the passing game and Lenon is better in that facet of play too. Avant is the only guy who should regularly win his 1-1 match up so I fancy the Cardinals pass defense to hold up well.
Confidence - 4/10
Eagles' running game against the Cardinals' run defense
While Dockett and Campbell are fiersome pass rushers, their aggressiveness can be used against them at times, especially with the former. While Watkins has struggled a little in pass pro, he's been better in the running game and he could control the pro-bowl LE. Campbell will likely prove more difficult but Mathis is rarely bested in the ground game which is where he excels. In the middle I can't see Reynolds having much success against Williams. The new Eagles' C is unknown and the big nose tackle is rarely moved. As for the rest of the front seven Acho looks much improved against the run and Daryl Washington is developing into one of the best linebackers in the game. The other two are less effective as both Schofield and Paris Lenon can be blocked. Bell did look a little lost in the run game against the Ravens when he came in for the injured Dunlap so the Eagles should look to run right behind Herremans whose run blocking has been almost as good as his pass blocking has been bad. Brent Celek also needs to step up his blocking game as the Ravens linebackers blew up numerous plays after beating him. The x factor in this is obviously Lesean McCoy who can pick up big yardage regardless of the blocking. He had success in last year's matchup going at 5.8 yards per carry. Finally it's also worth mentioning Adrian Wilson who will prove a nuisance if the Cardinals decide to employ him in the box. I see the Eagles having a slight advantage overall.
Confidence - 7/10
Eagles' pass rush against the Cardinals' pass protection
If there was an offensive line you could choose to face every week, it might be Arizona's. Trent Cole and Daryl Tapp should feast on D'Anthony Batiste, who, with all due respect, has no place starting in the NFL especially on the QBs blind side. Moving over to left guard, Daryn Colledge hasn't found the form he had in Green Bay and, while I wouldn't go as far to say he's a liability, he's not really strength either. Derek Landri should prove a tough test as he's continued his ridiculous 2011 form. The C and RG duo of Lyle Sendlein and Adam Snyder (if he plays) is perhaps the worst in the NFL. Coming over a really impressive display against Marshal Yanda, Fletcher Cox may well fancy his chances. Cullen Jenkins will get his looks also. Finally rookie Bobby Massie has been a pleasant surprise at right tackle thus far. He hasn't necessarily been tested by dominant players but he's been the best Cardinal lineman showing consistency in pass protection and making some plays in the run game. Still Jason Babin is not easily blocked and Brandon Graham and Philip Hunt will provide a consistent test.
Confidence - 9/10
Eagles' pass defense against the Cardinals' passing game
Larry Fitzgerald absolutely tore up Philadelphia's secondary in 2011 but he did a lot of his work on the safeties and Asante Samuel. In theory Nnamdi Asomugha should match up well with the physical Fitzgerald but it concerns me that Kolb will just throw the ball up and give his receiver a chance. We all know by now that Asomugha doesn't have the greatest ball skills. I actually think Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might be the better option but whichever Eagles corner covers Andre Roberts should be in a favourable situation. In the slot Brandon Boykin draws Early Doucet who's a decent player but nothing special. Coming off an impressive game against Anquan Boldin, Boykin may well win the contest. If Todd Heap is out, Jeff King and Rob Housler will still provide some test but they're not Dennis Pitta or Ed Dickson and the Eagles' safeties and linebackers did a good job on them. The Cardinals should target LaRod Stephens-Howling, as he's a weapon in the passing game.
Confidence - 7/10
Eagles' run defense against the Cardinals' running game
I don't think you can call any of Arizonas' offensive lineman good run blockers with the possible exception of Massie who's unproven. This is another game where the Eagles' front seven should be able to shut down a rushing attack. Demeco Ryans has five tackles for a loss in two games and will look to add to that on Sunday. Mychal Kendricks has also been good in that department and Akeem Jordan is a good block shedder. Even the tightends are poor run blockers and Ryan Williams has looked terrible running the football even though he hasn't had any helb. Arizona should look to use misdirection to take advantage of the Eagles' one gap scheme and leave blockers free to take themselves out of plays rather than relying on blockers to do it for them. Patrick Peterson is a weapon that needs to be used and him and Howling could deliver big plays if they find themselves in space.
Confidence - 8/10
After losing this contest last year I think the offensive coaches will recognise they need to run McCoy. They had a lot of success in 2011 and will likely do so again if they commit to it. This may well be the week Jason Avant is featured as the Cardinals' secondary is good aside from Gay in the slot. On defense it's really a matter of stopping the big play. The defensive line should generate a rush and the Eagles' should be able to stop the run with seven in the box, leaving a safety to double on Fitzgerald.