Arizona Cardinals favored over Eagles in Prime Time
By Erich Becker
Can the Arizona Cardinals make it five for five in prime time this season?
While all the attention recently has gone to teams fighting to get into the playoffs and “who you don’t want to face in the postseason” no many are talking about who you don’t want to face in the regular season, even if they have shored up a playoff spot. The Arizona Cardinals did that last week with win over Minnesota (in prime time) on Thursday Night, now they can take the division this week and possibly the second seed and a first round bye.
The Cardinals travel to the depths of Philadelphia to take on the Chip Kelly-led, high tempo offense of the Eagles who are embroiled in a three way tie for the division in what has been termed the “NFC Least” over the course of the season. No one wants to win that division, to a lesser degree, the AFC South fits the bill, but things will get interesting.
For the Eagles this game means nothing, division match-ups to finish up the season are where they’ll win the division if they are destined to so this game is only for stature, not the playoffs.
For the Cardinals, this game means a lot, the Cardinals final road game would put a cap on the season that would see them go 7-1 on the road if they win, that’s how you tell a good team from a mediocre team to a bad team, they travel and win. The Cardinals currently have a 5-1 record at home with two games after this weekend.
With the division and a bye on the line, the Arizona Cardinals control everything about them this season, but how will they match-up against a bottom third defense?
Elliot Harrison at NFL.com sees the Cardinals (barely) pulling out a win, and lauds what the team has done on offense this season:
"Arizona wins its eighth in a row en route to clinching the NFC West. This Cardinals squad is the best group in franchise history, at least in terms of a sustained run, since the 1974-76 Don Coryell team. On the topic of history, I watched Cowboys at Eagles from 1991 while writing this column. (Who doesn’t miss games at the Vet, home of the worst shag carpet in pro sports history? … Every guy that had to play on it.) Any Philly fans who feel they have had enough of Sam Bradford this season, consider this: Jeff Kemp was the Eagles’ starter that day. If this 2015 team could play even close to the standard of the ’91 Eagles — the top defense in franchise history — there would be no stopping Philadelphia from winning a garbage division. Whoever plays best on that side of the ball should be the lone representative from the NFC East in January. Tall test this week versus the NFL’s top-ranked offense. Nerd alert: This is a rematch of the 1947 and ’48 NFL title games. They split. #AZvsPHI"
History soliloquies not withstanding, the Cardinals edge this one out 34 to 27 in Harrison’s book.
Microsoft’s Cortana and Nate Silver’s ELO model predictions have the Cardinals winning as well, with the latter at 63% chance of victory for the former and 65% for the latter. Both analytical models were triumphant last week.
At FOXSports.com six out of eight panel members have the Cardinals winning this prime time game, with two choosing the Eagles.
At CBS, Pete Prisco has the Cardinals coming off 10 days rest to take this game from the Eagles:
"The Eagles have won consecutive games to stay in the division race. This won’t be easy. Arizona can score and they will have been off for 10 days. It’s a long trip for the Cardinals, but that passing game will light up the Eagles. Cards get it.The Pick: Cardinals 33, Eagles 28"
CBS’s panel has the Cardinals taking the game in all bye one person’s eyes.
Finally, Mike Florio and MDS at ProFootballTalk both choose the Cardinals in this contest, with MDS stating:
"The Eagles have played much better on defense and special teams the last couple weeks, but their offense remains problematic. I don’t think they can score enough to keep up with the excellent Cardinals offense."
Let’s just hope that excellent offense can figure out how to score inside the 20’s this week.
The Cardinals come into this game with a lot at stake, with 10 days rest, but an East Coast trip to boot. The team has done well in games like this all season and are a few passes away from 13-0 right now. Still, the game has to be played and having familiar experience against Sam Bradford, and the questionable Eagles’ secondary giving up a league high in touchdowns, Carson, Larry, Michael, John, David and J.J. should deliver us all an early Christmas present, the NFC West.
Cardinals 31, Eagles 18