When the Eagles run the ball
The same team that ignored the run in its first two games (39.4 run percentage) embraced it in a big way in the last two (55.1) and been very effective with it. The Eagles (3-1) rushed for 407 yards in wins over the Giants and Chargers, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and racking up a league-best 25 rushing first downs. Their RBs, who carried the ball just 33 times in the first two games, lugged it 69 times in the last two. No one has been more effective than 250-pound, tackle-breaking LeGarrette Blount, who had his second-best game as a pro vs. the Chargers, rushing for 136 yards. The Eagles benched LG Isaac Seumalo after Week 2 and rotated Stefen Wisniewski and Chance Warmack there the last two games. Both have been very effective in the run game. The Cardinals have been very good against the run and have yet to allow a team to rush for 100 yards and have held opponents to 3.2 yards per carry overall and just 3.0 on first down (fifth in league).
When the Eagles throw the ball
Carson Wentz’s overall passing numbers haven’t been anything special. He’s 16th in passing (90.5), 16th in yards per attempt (7.20), 26th in completion percentage (60.5) and 19th in TD percentage (6 TDs in 166 attempts). But he has excelled on third down. He’s seventh in third-down passing (107.2) with a 65.0 completion percentage, 8.73 yards per attempt and three of his six TD passes. Twenty-two of his 26 third-down completions have been for first downs. Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz have six third-down catches each. Jeffery already has two red-zone TDs. Ertz has been targeted more than any other TE in the league (32) and has a team-high 26 catches. The Cardinals have held opponents to 6.4 yards per attempt and a 59.3 completion percentage. Patrick Peterson is one of the league’s best CBs. He allowed just five completions for 56 yards in the first four games. If there’s a weak link in the Cards’ secondary, it’s their other corner, Justin Bethel, who already gave up three TDs.
When the Cardinals run the ball
Without David Johnson, who is out until at least November with a wrist injury, the Cardinals’ run game is nonexistent. They are averaging a league-worst 2.7 yards per carry. They have just one rushing TD, 13 rushing first downs and only three runs of 10 yards or more. By comparison, the Eagles have 19. The Cards (2-2) re-signed 32-year-old Chris Johnson after David Johnson’s injury, but he’s averaging just 2.6 yards per carry. Bruce Arians pretty much has abandoned the run. First down has become a passing down. The Cardinals have run the ball on just 46 of 125 first-down plays (36.8 percent). The Eagles are third in run defense (70.8 yards per game), but teams are averaging only 16.5 rushing attempts against them. They’re giving up 4.3 yards per carry, but if you take out the 53-yard touchdown run by the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt and the 35-yard scoring run Sunday by the Chargers’ Austin Ekeler, that average drops to 3.0.
When the Cardinals pass the ball
Bruce Arians was a pass-first guy even before David Johnson’s injury. Now, he’s a pass-first, second and third guy. Carson Palmer is averaging a league-high 45.7 attempts per game, but is 21st in yards per attempt (7.01), 23rd in interception percentage (5 in 183 attempts) and 26th in TD percentage (5). Palmer likes to throw deep. He has 20 completions of 20-plus yards, second only to Tom Brady. But his line isn’t built for deep passing. He has already been sacked 17 times and has been under pressure on 42.3 percent of his dropbacks, the fourth-highest percent in the league. Palmer has been ineffective on third down. He’s 28th in third-down passing, with a 52.0 completion percentage and 6.0 yards per attempt. The Eagles are struggling vs. the pass, particularly late in games. In the fourth quarter of their last three games, opponents have a 150.9 passer rating with five TD passes and a 78.8 completion percentage.
Jake Elliott has made six FGs in a row, including the game-winning 61-yarder vs. the Giants and a 53-yarder vs. the Chargers. Ten of his last 11 kickoffs have been touchbacks. The Eagles are third in the league in punt coverage. Opponents have returned six of Donnie Jones’ 14 punts for a grand total of 14 yards. Kickoff returners Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement are averaging a combined 25.6 yards per attempt. Kenjon Barner, who has replaced injured Darren Sproles as the punt returner, had a 13-yard return Sunday. Barner will get some opportunities against the Cardinals. Fifteen of Andy Lee’s 21 punts have been returned. The Cardinals are 28th in punt coverage, giving up 10.3 yards per return. Phil Dawson, the Cards’ 42-year-old PK, has an 84.3 career FG percentage. Since 2011, he has converted 29 of 36 FGs from 50-plus yards. KR/PR Kerwynn Williams is averaging just 2.8 yards per return on punts and 20.2 yards per return on KOs.
Eagles 34, Cardinals 27
— Eagles SCB Patrick Robinson vs. Cardinals SWR Larry Fitzgerald: At 34, Fitzgerald still is one of the league’s better pass-catchers. He’s on pace for his third straight 100-plus-catch season. Robinson, who has played outside most of his career, needs to keep Fitzgerald in check. ADVANTAGE: Cardinals
— Eagles DEs Brandon Graham/Vinny Curry/Chris Long/Derek Barnett vs. Cardinals OTs Jared Valdheer and John Wetzel: Veldheer and Wetzel have given up a collective five sacks, seven QB hits and 34 hurries. The Eagles’ rotating edge rushers need to get pressure on Carson Palmer. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
— Eagles WR Torrey Smith vs. Cardinals CB Justin Bethel: Smith is struggling, but Bethel is the weak link outside, with All-Pro Patrick Peterson manning the other side. Bethel already has given up three TD passes. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Hot and Not
Eagles: RB LeGarrette Blount. Rushed for 136 yards vs. the Chargers, 109 of which came after contact.
Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald. Has a TD catch in each of the last two games.
Eagles: WR Torrey Smith. Had just 10 catches and team-high four drops in the first four games.
Cardinals: QB Carson Palmer. 28th in passing, 26th in TD percentage and 23rd in interception percentage.