Topping the list for feeling thankful is head coach Chip Kelly and what he has brought to the program here. Going out and performing their due diligence, Jeffrey Lurie, Don Smolenski and Howie Roseman left no stone unturned once the 2012 season ended and the Eagles searched for the perfect fit to run this football team.
They hit it off with Kelly, and the relationship has been terrific. This remains a work in progress and by no means does anyone here think the Eagles have "arrived," but the Eagles are moving in the right direction. This has been a season in which a good foundation has been put in place, Kelly has established his program and the entire organization has bought in.
And, lo and behold, the Eagles are 6-5 and winners of three straight games with Arizona coming to town on Sunday. The Eagles are a good, young, improving football team. There is a young core of talent developing weekly, and those players offer promise that the building blocks are in place and that the drafts of 2012 and 2013 are going to keep some key players in place for years to come.
One year ago the Eagles were struggling to stay respectable as the Andy Reid tenure wound down. Now, the games have huge impact. The fun is back. The intensity from week to week keeps us all on edge, and that's something never to take for granted.
The most important thank you for this weekend -- no, every day of every year -- goes out to the fans who support this team, have shown remarkable patience and who clearly love the Eagles. It's so great that the team is back and in the playoff picture.
Bring on the Cardinals! Sunday is going to be a blast ...
- Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is likely to see a lot of cornerback Patrick Peterson on Sunday, a matchup of star vs. star. Peterson is big and strong and is able to get his hands on receivers and pin them down at the line of scrimmage.
"He's got size, number one," said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur about Peterson. "Then he's got the skill and ability to play bump and run which you're looking for. Then when the ball goes up in the air, he's got outstanding ball skills. So you can't leave the ball ‑‑ you can't be sloppy with where you place the ball, because he could make a play on it.
"Then obviously, once he has the ball in his hands, we all know what he can do based on how he handles himself and those kick and punt returns."
Pro Football Focus says Peterson has faced 69 passes his way this season, and has allowed 35 receptions for an average of 13.7 yards per catch. He has allowed, according to these metrics, 225 yards after the catch. Jackson, listed as the eighth-best wide receiver in the league this season, is having the best year of his NFL career. The Eagles have to find a way to get Jackson off the line of scrimmage against Peterson.
- The Eagles are very much aware of how potent Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense is, and the defensive backs are preparing for a battle. "Carson has a great arm and the receivers are as good as any we see," said cornerback Cary Williams. "It's a great test. We know it. They make a lot of plays down the field, so it's going to be tough."
- Punter Donnie Jones has quite a perspective on Peterson as a punt return man. Peterson returns two of Jones' punts for touchdowns in 2011 when Jones punted for St. Louis. One was a 99-yard return in overtime and the second happened three weeks later. "He's explosive. We're going to have to be very sound in what we do," said Jones. "He can turn a game around."
- From the We-Know-This-Already Department: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is awesome, and he's dominated the Eagles with nine touchdowns and more than 100 yards per game in his five meetings against Philadelphia. "He's probably the best receiver in the league," said defensive coordinator Bill Davis. "I've got nothing but respect for him. He does a great job at the ball. He's one of the strongest reach-out-and-snatch-the-ball guys that are out there. And he's got such a drive to succeed and catch the football every time."
- For the Eagles to have success offensively, of course, the offensive line is going to have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage against a terrific Arizona front that includes Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, who have combined for 10 sacks. "They put a lot of pressure on offenses and they keep coming," said center Jason Kelce. "They show a lot of new things week to week, so we have to prepare for everything and anything."