Staying Alive: Birds Battle Cardinals in another Must-Win Game
Rallying behind new quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off the improbable last week and took down the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints. The Birds will need to keep the magic going in week 15 as underdogs on the road playing the 7-6 Arizona Cardinals. Read the game’s hottest storylines below.
The Injury Buzz
The secondary unit for the Eagles crumbled at its very foundations during last Sunday’s game. The consequences of those injuries exist on a scale from bad to worse. Cornerback Darius Slay is currently in the concussion protocol and his status for this coming matchup is still undetermined. Fellow cornerback Avonte Maddox will “miss some time” with a knee injury, per Doug Pederson’s comments earlier this week. Additionally, starting safety Rodney McLeod will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
Eagles rookie offensive lineman Jack Driscoll heroically played through an injury during last Sunday’s victory. However, this injury is too serious for him to continue this task and it was announced this week that he will miss the rest of the season with an MCL injury. This is just the latest in a long string of offensive line woes for the Birds who have already lost Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks, and Andre Dillard to significant injuries.
While the above will surely cap the Eagles’ potential on Sunday, the good news is that all their relevant skill position players appear intact and will do their best to keep the Hurts train rolling.
Another QB Duel of the Mobile Variety
Once again, the matchup for the Eagles will pit their mobile quarterback against a signal-caller with a similar skillset. Last week that opposing force was Taysom Hill, and the defense held up admirably, even creating two turnovers (one interception, one fumble) on the day. This week the task will be even tougher as Kyler Murray, second year sensation at the quarterback position, will be calling the shots for the Cardinals.
Although Murray’s production has slowed in recent weeks, his season-to-date numbers speak for themselves. He’s completed 67% of his passes while throwing for 3,231 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Those figures are solid on their own, but only after you add his rushing ability to the mix do you see how dangerous a player Murray truly is. Through 13 games, he’s amassed over 700 yards on the ground to go along with an eye-popping 10 rushing touchdowns. There’s only five running backs on the season that have matched his touchdown amount on the ground; a true testament to his dominance this season.
Jalen Hurts will do his best at a Kyler Murray impression this Sunday, as he hopes to hurt the Cardinals defense through both the ground and air. Working in his favor is the fact that the Cardinals defense is much weaker than last week’s opponent, the New Orleans Saints. On the flip side, there is now more gametape available on Jalen Hurts for opposing defenses to study. Any surprising facets of his game that Hurts brought to the table last week will be known to the defense and you can bet they’ll be prepared. However, the hardest thing to gameplan against is athleticism itself. If Hurts can keep the defense honest with his pocket passing ability and then selectively pick his spots to utilize his legs, he should find success on Sunday.
Playoff Implications for Both Sides
This really is a must-win game on both sides of the ball which should make a terrific, hard-fought battle. The Eagles are still earnestly vying for the NFC East crown and need to rely on losses by their divisional opponents as well as victories on their end.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals are striving to reach one of the three wildcard spots that would spell their first playoff berth since the 2015-2016 season. At 7-6, they are currently hanging onto that last wildcard spot and sit at seventh in the NFC. However, teams like the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears are hot on their heels at 6-7. Those teams actually face off against each other in week 15, so the Cardinals will need a victory to remain ahead.
Both teams want this game badly and as result I think it will be a really close one. I think the recent injuries sustained by the Birds will really have an impact, particularly their lack of depth in the secondary. As a result, I’m taking the Cardinals in a game that comes down to the wire. Cardinals 24, Eagles 23.