Sunday, April 19, 2015

10 things: Eagles vs. Cardinals

Here are 10 things to know about today's Eagles-Cardinals matchup:

10 things: Eagles vs. Cardinals

Eagles TE Brent Celek could have a big game vs. the Cardinals. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles TE Brent Celek could have a big game vs. the Cardinals. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Here are 10 things to know about today's Eagles-Cardinals matchup:

1. Opponents are averaging just 3.9 yards per carry against the Cardinals (tied for seventh-best), but that's probably deceiving when you consider the circumstances. Football Outsiders' adjusted ratings have the Cardinals at 28th against the run. LeSean McCoy is the league's leading rusher with 825 yards. He's on pace for 1,650, which would be a franchise record. McCoy is third (behind Matt Forte and Fred Jackson with nine carries of 20+ yards). And McCoy's 5.5 yards per carry are second to Ben Tate among backs with at least 100 carries. He is averaging 7.5 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, tops in the league. Last year, McCoy was best when running to the left side, but that hasn't been the case this season. He's averaging 6.8 yards per attempt to the right; 6.8 up the middle; and 4.3 to the left, according to ESPN.com's splits. Still, McCoy runs to the left most often.

2. Opposing quarterbacks have an 87.7 QB rating against the Cardinals (22nd), and Football Outsiders has them ranked 29th against the pass. Arizona has allowed just nine passing touchdowns; only four teams have allowed fewer. But the Cardinals have given up 38 pass plays of 20+ yards. Only the Chiefs and Patriots have allowed more. It would have been a good chance to get DeSean Jackson going, but Les Bowen of the Daily News first reported that Jackson will not dress because he missed a team meeting. The Cardinals rank 31st in covering opposing tight ends, according to Football Outsiders, so Brent Celek could have a big game. He's been the Eagles' most-targeted receiver in each of the past three games.

3. If you're wondering who's going to get more playing time with Jackson out, my guess would be Riley Cooper. In the last two weeks, Steve Smith has played a total of zero snaps, while Cooper has played 13. Jason Avant will join Jeremy Maclin in two-receiver sets, moving to the slot when the Eagles go three-wide. Smith should get on the field, but my guess is Cooper will see an increased role.

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4. Eagles quarterbacks have been sacked 14 times, sixth-fewest in the league, and Football Outsiders has the Birds seventh overall in pass protection. The Eagles have allowed 40 quarterback hits, which is tied for 19th. The line did not play very well last week against the Bears. The Cardinals have just two fewer sacks than the Eagles, ranking 12th in the NFL with 20, but they are 22nd in sack rate. Calais Campbell leads the Cardinals with five sacks.

5. Cardinals quarterbacks have been sacked 27 times, tied for third-most. And Arizona ranks 31st in adjusted sack rate. The Eagles' defense has 22 sacks, which is tied for ninth, and they are fifth in sack rate. Last week, the Bears kept extra blockers in, and their receivers were able to win against the Eagles defensive backs. We'll see if the Cardinals employ a similar strategy.

6. Beanie Wells is averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and his 75.1 yards per game ranks 14th. He has just three carries of 20+ yards. Opponents are averaging 5.0 YPC against the Eagles, sixth-worst, and Football Outsiders has the Birds' run defense ranked 30th. The Eagles have allowed nine rushes of 20+ yards, tied for seventh-most.

7. Opposing quarterbacks have an 86.3 QB rating against the Eagles (12th), and Football Outsiders has them ranked 14th against the pass. Larry Fitzgerald leads the Cardinals in targets (69), catches (38) and receiving yards (646). He has not had a 100-yard game since Week 4 and has had four catches or fewer in his last four. But if Fitzgerald's 17.0 yards per catch stands, it would be the highest mark of his career. Early Doucet is second on the team in targets (55), receptions (34) and yards (437). By the way, it appears the Eagles have improved against the tight end. Football Outsiders has them first in the league in covering opposing tight ends (allowing 40.8 yards per game).

8. The Eagles are averaging 2.4 giveaways per game, tied for most in the NFL. They have 19 overall. Only the Chargers (21) have more, but they already played this week. The Birds are a -7 overall in turnover differential. Only five teams are worse. The Cardinals are -3, with 13 giveaways and 10 takeaways.

9. The Cardinals' offense is 11th in red-zone scoring percentage, converting touchdowns on 54.5 percent of their trips. The Eagles are 23rd at 45.95 percent. The Cardinals' defense is 14th, allowing touchdowns 50 percent of the time. The Eagles are second-to-last at 68.18 percent.

10. Arizona's special teams rank fourth in Football Outsiders' rankings. The Eagles are 18th. The Cardinals' punt return unit is tops in the league, with Patrick Peterson having already taken three to the house through eight games.


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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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