Happy Thanksgiving! The Eagles are 5-5-1 and their playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are cruising and can win the NFC West title tonight. Let's breakdown the matchups in this week's Countdown to Kickoff ...
After a hectic night in Baltimore on Sunday, Andy Reid confirmed Monday that Donovan McNabb will be his starting quarterback tonight, bottom line. What remains to be seen is exactly what the Eagles will do at running back and with a running game that has been completely ineffective for a month.
Correll Buckhalter sprained his MCL against the Ravens and is unlikely to play, throwing a painful wrench into the team's plans. Before Buckhalter's injury, he was beginning to get a little bit more involved with the offense against Baltimore, but he went down early. What hurts more is that Brian Westbrook doesn't seem to be anywhere near 100 percent, so expect to see quite a number of snaps for Lorenzo Booker, who's been inactive since Week 10. Booker said he is ready to try to make his mark.
Cornerback Asante Samuel suffered a stinger against the Ravens as well, and his status will have to be closely monitored, especially against the league's top pair of wide receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals have a lot to play for, too – if they pull out a win this weekend, or if San Francisco loses, they'll be the first team to clinch their division in 2008.
FROM THE COACH'S DESK
For the first time in years, head coach Andy Reid needed to declare explicitly in a press conference that a healthy Donovan McNabb was his starting quarterback.
When Reid benched McNabb in favor of Kevin Kolb for the second half of last Sunday's ugly 36-7 loss in Baltimore, he was trying to send a spark to his limping offense that never came. So McNabb will be back in on Thursday as the 5-5-1 Eagles try to salvage their last gasps of playoff air.
"As I said here right now, he's my quarterback. I'm telling you he's the starting quarterback," Reid said. "If I thought different, then I would start (Kolb)."
Reid would not go back on his decision to play Kolb in Baltimore, nor would he on having quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur tell both McNabb and Kolb of the move, and not Reid personally.
That system follows team protocol, Reid said.
"That's what we do. That's how things are. And I really don't care what anybody else thinks about that," Reid said. "That's how we do it. And the coach of that player, he tells them, and then I address it afterwards and that's how it goes."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
*QB Kurt Warner
*Warner has apparently discovered the fountain of youth in the Arizona desert. The 37-year old former MVP is on pace to have his best season since 2001 when he led the St. Louis Rams and "The Greatest Show on Turf" into the Super Bowl against the Patriots. Warner is second in the NFL in passing with 3,506 yards and he's thrown 21 touchdowns against just eight interceptions so far in 2008.
LB Karlos Dansby
Not only is Dansby the Cardinals' leader in tackles, he also leads the team in interceptions. His 79 tackles ties him for 17th in the league according to NFL.com. He's picked off two passes, recovered two fumbles and notched three sacks. If the Eagles are to feast on the Cardinals defense, which is ranked 10th in the NFL, they're going to have to account for Dansby at all times.
RB Lorenzo Booker
With Correll Buckhalter's recent knee injury, Booker said he will dress and see some significant playing time against Arizona on Thanksgiving night. Booker, who has been inactive for four of the last five games, will be called upon to spell Brian Westbrook in case Buckhalter can't play. Booker has shown flashes of explosiveness at times, especially in the preseason, but will it translate from the practice field to the game?
LB Akeem Jordan
Jordan took over the weakside linebacker position from Omar Gaither last week against Baltimore but he was officially listed ahead of him on the depth chart for the first time this week. Jordan made the most of his opportunity, leading the Eagles with eight solo tackles according to the press box stats. His speed will be an asset against a fast Cardinals team.
KEEP AN EYE ON ... Arizona RB Tim Hightower
If the rookie out of Richmond gets going, it will be a long day for the Eagles defense.
The hard-nosed Hightower has supplanted Edgerrin James as the feature back, but he's only rushed for 320 yards this season - an average of 29.1 yards per game. However, he gets the job done around the goal line with nine touchdowns this season.
The Cardinals are going to be a pass-first team - no question about that. But if Hightower is effective enough to make the Eagles defense account for him, that will be resources that have to be taken away from the league's second-best passing offense. And with Asante Samuel listed as doubtful, that could be a concern.
FIRST AND LONG
- The Cards have lost all three Eastern time zone games they've played this season, at the Redskins, at the Jets and at the Panthers.
- This game marks the Eagles 11th time playing on a Thursday and the fifth Thanksgiving Day game in team history. Overall, the Eagles are 8-2 on Thursday and 4-0 on Thanksgiving. Of those 4 wins, 3 have been shutouts.
- The Eagles are 3-0 against the NFC West this season, winning those games by a combined 104-36. Andy Reid's Eagles also swept the NFC West in 2002, winning four straight games against them and outscoring them, 113-54.
- The Eagles lead the NFL with 39 sacks in 2008, producing one every 10.1 pass plays.
- The Eagles are second in the NFL, allowing just 4.47 yds./play. They are also tied with Baltimore for the fewest 10-play drives allowed (12).
- Opposing QBs have a 60.7 passer rating when the Eagles blitz, which is the fifth-lowest in the NFL.
- Eagles RT Jon Runyan is celebrating his 35th birthday on Thursday. He is also expected to start in his 140th consecutive game for the Eagles, which is the fourth-longest streak in team history.
- Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has had a passer rating of plus-90 only four times this season (the Eagles are 3-1 in those games) and in his last three games, the rating has plummeted from an 80.1 (vs. Giants) to a 50.9 (in Cincinnati) to a 13.2 (against Baltimore). McNabb has turned the ball over seven times in the last two games, including five interceptions.
- McNabb has won four of his past five meetings vs. Arizona. He has completed 107 of 155 (69.0 pct.) for 1,216 yards, with 10 TDs vs. 4 INTs for 103.1 passer rating. When McNabb has 100 rating (incl. playoffs), the team is 37-1 (.974).
- Eagles rookie WR DeSean Jackson leads NFL rookies with 699 receiving yards and is second with 47 catches.
- The Eagles average starting field position after kickoffs is 29.6 yards, which is fifth-best in the NFL. They have also started in opposing territory three times.
- Last week, Arizona allowed kickoff returns of 83 and 68 yards to Giants KR Domenik Hixon.
- Cardinals RB-KR J.J. Arrington had 232 KR yards last week, second-most in team history.
- Cardinals S Adrian Wilson is 1 of 4 active safeties with 15 INTs (18) and 15 sacks (18.0). He has 2.5 sacks and 1 INT in past two meetings.
- The Cardinals rank second in the NFC, averaging 28.9 points per game.
- The Cardinals have scored 246 points inside the red zone this season, the second-highest total in the league.
- Despite not recording a turnover last week vs. NYG, the Cardinals are tied for second in the NFL in takeaways with 22. On the season, the Cardinals are 5-0 when winning the turnover battle and 1-3 when losing the turnover battle.