The Eagles are coming off their most impressive win of the season over the New Orleans Saints, but their stretch of contests against teams with winning records continues Sunday in a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals (3:20 PM, Kickoff Show presented by Axalta).
The Cardinals look to pull themselves out of a midseason funk where they lost three straight after a 6-3 start. They took a strong first step with a demonstrative 26-7 win over the New York Giants last Sunday.
With just three weeks left in the regular season, the Eagles must win to keep their hopes of winning the NFC East alive. A loss, plus a Washington win (vs. Seattle), would eliminate the Eagles. The Cardinals currently have a hold on the final Wild Card berth in the NFC with their 7-6 record.
Will the Eagles continue to take flight in Jalen Hurts' second start? Or will they be grounded by the Cardinals?
Follow along in our Game Preview, presented by Unibet:
• This is the first time that head coaches Doug Pederson and Kliff Kingsbury square off. The last time that the Eagles faced the Cardinals was in 2017 when Philadelphia dismantled Arizona by a score of 34-7 at Lincoln Financial Field.
• Jalen Hurts was not sacked in his starting debut against the Saints. The Cardinals feasted on the Giants' quarterbacks to the tune of eight sacks last week, paced by linebacker Haason Reddick's franchise-record five sacks. A Camden, New Jersey native and former Temple star, Reddick was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded player in Week 14.
One of the storylines to watch is how will the Cardinals attack Hurts and an Eagles offensive line that will start its 13th different combination in 14 games following Jack Driscoll's knee injury. Matt Pryor will start at right tackle in Driscoll's absence.
The Cardinals are sixth in the NFL with 37 sacks entering Week 15. They blitz at a rate of 42.9 percent (fourth in the NFL) and incorporate a defensive back in the blitz pressure 21.7 percent of the time (sixth in the NFL). The Cardinals used a lot of stunts to get to the Giants last week, but that can open holes for Hurts to escape. Hurts has been sacked on 21.4 percent of pressures this season. That number was 31.3 percent with Carson Wentz at quarterback.
It should also be noted that the Cardinals have allowed the fourth-most explosive passes (20-plus yards) this season with 34.
• How will the Eagles account for the loss of cornerback Darius Slay, who was ruled out Saturday due to the concussion he suffered against the Saints? The Eagles are down both starting cornerbacks as Avonte Maddox (knee) was placed on Injured Reserve, and starting safety Rodney McLeod, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear in last Sunday's win.
Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is one of three NFL players at his position with at least 90 receptions (94, third in NFL) and 1,000 yards (1,155, fifth in NFL) this season, according to NFL Media Research. Hopkins has surpassed 100 yards in six games this season, tied for most in the NFL.
Larry Fitzgerald might not be the top dog in the receiver room, but he's had quite a career against the Eagles. In nine games, including playoffs, Fitzgerald has 56 receptions for 896 yards and 11 touchdowns.
• Sunday marks a battle of former Oklahoma Sooner standout quarterbacks in Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray. Ever since an injury to his throwing shoulder in Week 11, Murray's production has waned compared to an outstanding start of the season. From Weeks 1-10, according to NFL Media Research, Murray was third in the league with 331 yards passing and rushing per game, third in the NFL. Since then, it's 241 yards per game.
NFL Media Research notes that the injury may have affected his ability to throw outside the numbers the most. From Weeks 1-11, Murray completed 68 percent of his attempts, averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, and had a passer rating of 110.8 on throws outside the numbers. Since Week 12, his completion percentage is down to 45.2, yards per attempt is 3.5, and passer rating is 52.4 outside the numbers.
It should be noted that Murray threw for 121 yards on intermediate passes in Week 14 against the Giants, his most of the season, according to NFL Media Research.
As the Cardinals must decide how to contain Hurts, the Eagles have the same conundrum with Murray. The Cardinals are 5-2 when Murray rushes for 50 or more yards in 2020. He is 288 yards from the 1000-yard rushing plateau for the season. Murray has been kept out of the end zone from a rushing standpoint in four straight games. He only had one game without a rushing touchdown in the first 10 weeks of the season.
• With all of this emphasis on the rushing attack, who will have a bigger impact – Miles Sanders or Kenyan Drake?
Sanders had 115 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in Sunday's win over New Orleans. He has three runs of 70-plus yards this season.
Sanders and Drake are two of only four players with at least 500 rushing yards and six total touchdowns in December games dating back to last season. Drake has five rushing touchdowns since Week 11, second in the NFL. He could be in for a bigger workload Sunday with Chase Edmonds' status in doubt with an ankle injury.
Drake has already shouldered more of the rushing duties since Murray's injury, especially in the red zone. In Weeks 1-10, Drake had 3.3 carries per game and three rushing touchdowns. Since, he's had six carries per game and five rushing touchdowns inside the 20, according to NFL Media Research.