We all celebrated Sunday's terrific win over Baltimore for a day. It was a wonderful win, and in a sense it was a litmus test for the Eagles.
But Sunday's game in Arizona is more important to the Eagles. It's a conference game, first and foremost, and it's against a 2-0 Cardinals team that believes in itself. Arizona's defense is top shelf, and the offense has done just enough to win a pair of games. There is some standout young talent on Arizona's roster and the Cardinals are certainly to be respected.
Plus, the Cardinals have been very tough to beat for Andy Reid, winning three of the last four games against the Eagles. In fact, Reid has a sub-.500 record against Arizona dating back to his debut and the Brian Finneran dropped pass and, ah, the history of it all. Fact is, the Cardinals have been a tough win for the Eagles for as long as the memory serves. It's just hard to win in the desert.
OK, so we've established how much this game means. And it's certainly worth respecting the Cardinals' win over New England on Sunday. It was a defining win for Arizona and it stamped the Cardinals as absolute playoff contenders.
So as emotional as we all got leading up to Baltimore, with all of the "litmus-test" headlines and the way we stated how important the game was to help define the Eagles, this game actually means more. The Eagles leave on Friday for Arizona. The trip itself is a challenge. The temperatures will be near or just over 100 degrees, so the roof at the University of Phoenix Stadium will likely be closed and, thus, the noise level will be off the charts and a young center making his first NFL start, Dallas Reynolds, will be supremely tested.
This is a game for the Eagles to find out how they react after a really good win over a really good team, and how they handle the pressure of a long-distance road trip in a hostile environment and how they overcome the loss of their young center, Jason Kelce, and how they fare against an up-and-coming Arizona team that has come a long way in a short period of time.
Big test. Great challenge. As good as you feel about the win over Baltimore, put it behind you and focus on Arizona. That's what the players need to do, too. Sunday's game is huge for so many reasons for this football team.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Chad Johnson created a furor in Philadelphia overnight by Tweeting that he was coming to Philadelphia on Tuesday and that, of course, led to speculation that he would work out for the Eagles. For the record, that is not true. Not going to happen. What in the world would the Eagles do with Chad Johnson and that headache? No way does a young team that is playing so well and that believes in each other so much need that kind of distraction.
- Jason Kelce is on the shelf for the remainder of the season, so what can we expect from Dallas Reynolds at center? He's a bigger player, physically, at around 315 pounds, so handling larger defensive tackles might help the interior of the line. Kelce is so athletic and such a good second-level blocker in the running game, though. That, and communication with left guard Evan Mathis and right guard Danny Watkins, is really the key for Reynolds' success.
- Speaking of Kelce, here's hoping his recovery is full. Great kid, great young center. He has a bright, bright future. The injury was an ugly one -- a low hit by safety Ed Reed, who missed his intended target LeSean McCoy. It was a painful injury to watch.
- Why are the Giants playing a second mid-week game so early in the schedule? They opened the regular season on a Wednesday night and had a long rest before playing on Sunday. Now they play on Thursday night? What's going on with that quirk in scheduling?
- Bobby April's coverage teams, which have been up and down so far this year, have a gigantic challenge on Sunday against Patrick Peterson. I honestly don't know if it is worth punting to him. He is that good. It's going to take Colt Anderson a couple of weeks to get back into shape and to trust his knee to become the special teams ace that he was a year ago. The Eagles need to step up in coverage and in the return game.
- The defense has not allowed a second-half touchdown in two games, a span of 14 possessions. Isn't it time to give Juan Castillo some credit for adjustments he's making at halftime?
- A wish list for Sunday includes a chance to give Bryce Brown a couple of series to get some consecutive carries under his belt to get into a rhythm. The game situation will dictate the opportunities for Brown, of course. Getting to 3-0 would be so enormous for this Eagles team ...
- Have the Eagles ever had a rookie class this impressive an impact so early. Fletcher Cox has a chance to be a special player -- he played more snaps than any defensive lineman on Sunday -- and he's clearly earned the trust of hard-to-please line coach Jim Washburn. Mychal Kendricks is the latest version of Seth Joyner -- can't you see Kendricks standing out at any linebacker position? -- and Brandon Boykin has been a shutdown slot receiver. Great, great draft class so far. And more to come ...
- Last year the Eagles gave up the huge play down the field to Larry Fitzgerald to lead to Arizona's winning points, and the defense actually could not contain Fitzgerald all game. He had 7 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 21 yards per reception. Obviously, the Eagles must do a better job this time around against the NFL's best receiver. What do they do? Does Nnamdi Asomugha shadow Fitzgerald? Do the Eagles double him? Does Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie battle a receiver he practiced against every day when both were members of the Cardinals? It's a great test for Castillo and cornerbacks coach Todd Bowles.