Eagles-Cardinals scouting report

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Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL

The Eagles had success running  the last two weeks, but that will be more of a challenge  Sunday. The Cardinals enter  with the NFL’s 10th-ranked rush defense, limiting opponents to 88 rushing yards per game. It’s unlikely that the Eagles will have Wendell Smallwood, who is questionable after missing practice all week with a knee injury. Without Smallwood, the Eagles would be down two of their top three running backs from the beginning of the season. LeGarrette Blount would be counted on to shoulder a big load, with Corey Clement likely taking on a bigger role, too.

The offensive line will keep a rotation of Stefen Wisniewski and Chance Warmack at left guard. The Cardinals have Karlos Dansby and Deone Bucannon at inside linebacker, with Temple product Haason Reddick contributing at outside linebacker.

The Eagles could rely on the pass more than recent weeks. The Cardinals have the 12th-ranked pass defense, keeping opponents to 214.8 passing yards per game. Carson Wentz did not turn the ball over the last two weeks, advancing the Eagles to 7-2 when he doesn’t throw an interception. Top receiver Alshon Jeffery will likely be covered by star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is known to travel with the opposing team’s best target. Wentz can continue to look for tight end Zach Ertz in the middle of the field; the Cardinals have a strong safety duo, with Tyrann Mathieu capable of taking on slot receivers and tight ends. Nelson Agholor could benefit in the slot if Ertz gets extra attention. Torrey Smith has been in a slump and the offense will be more dynamic if the Eagles can find him deep.

Arizona’s pass rush will be affected by the absence of Markus Golden, although the Cardinals still have Chandler Jones threatening from the edge. Jones has four sacks in four games. Jason Peters will be assigned to block him. The Cardinals have an aggressive defense, so pass-blocking will be important if Clement gets more work at running back.

WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL

If the Cardinals were at full strength, the Eagles would need to focus on stopping running back David Johnson. But a Week 1 injury to the Pro Bowler has hurt Arizona’s offense, and the pass-oriented attack will focus on the receivers. Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, still a threat  at age 34, will require the most attention.  Fitzgerald has dominated the Eagles throughout his career, totaling 50 catches, 845 yards, and 11 touchdowns in eight regular-season and postseason games. Fitzgerald plays the slot, so Patrick Robinson will draw the assignment. When the Cardinals use four-receiver sets, look for safety Malcolm Jenkins to cover Fitzgerald.

Arizona can field a track team with its other receivers. John Brown (questionable with a quadriceps injury), Jaron Brown, and J.J. Nelson (questionable with a hamstring injury) can all beat the Eagles deep if the cornerbacks are not in proper position. Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas will likely give a cushion when in coverage. Jaylen Watkins will also return this week after missing two games. The Cardinals’ passing game also features receiving back Andre Ellington, who could take advantage of the Eagles’ focus on the wide receivers. Ellington is second on the team with 19 receptions.

Even if the receivers get open, quarterback Carson Palmer could have a hard time finding them if he’s under duress. The Cardinals’ offensive line has struggled, allowing 17 sacks in four games. Palmer takes deep drops that require time, so the Eagles’ pass rushers will have opportunities. They’re playing without Fletcher Cox (calf) for the second consecutive week. Tim Jernigan and Beau Allen will start at defensive tackle, and the Eagles will continue rotating defensive ends. Former Penn State standout A.Q. Shipley starts at center for the Cardinals. The health status of guard Alex Boone, who is questionable with a chest injury, will be important to monitor.

Without Johnson, the Cardinals’ running game has not hurt opponents. Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams both average fewer than three yards per carry, and the Eagles’ second-ranked rush defense allows only 70.8 rushing yards per game.

BIG NUMBER

8

The Eagles have scored at least 20 points in eight consecutive games dating back to Week 14 in 2016, giving them the longest active streak in the NFL. Their 17 games scoring 20-plus points since the start of last season is tied for third in the NFL, trailing only Atlanta and New England. The Eagles rank seventh in the NFL this season with 25.8 points per game. Arizona allows 22.8 points per game, so the Eagles are in position to prolong their streak. The Eagles are 10-7 under Doug Pederson when they score at least 20 points.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Berman: Eagles 27, Cardinals 19

Jeff McLane: Eagles 24, Cardinals 20

Les Bowen: Eagles 29, Cardinals 24

Paul Domowitch: Eagles 34, Cardinals 27