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Important First Step Vs. Cardinals

Obviously, though, it is a game that the Eagles should win. I don't hesitate saying they are a better team. Whether they play the better game today is an entirely different question, one that has been answered in frustrating fashion too often this season.

The first game of the rest of the season comes against Arizona, a 2-6 team missing its starting quarterback and three starters on defense. You would think the Eagles, after the tough loss to Chicago, would come out snorting and snuffing and ready to play their best football. But how can anybody possibly know what to expect from this up-and-down team?

Look, I see the Cardinals and I see Larry Fitzgerald. Superstar receiver. Juan Castillo needs to take him out of the game. What is the best way to do that? Isn't a big, strong, talented receiver the reason the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha in the first place? Doesn't that make sense to all of us who observe the game, that the Eagles should get Asomugha lined up on Fitzgerald as much as possible? I mean, if the Cardinals move Fitzgerald around and match him against a linebacker, for example, that's a win for Arizona.

I see Arizona's defense as one that can bring some pressure off the edges, and one that has been beaten badly vertically this season. Doesn't it make sense to give Michael Vick plenty of protection and let him stand in the pocket and throw the football down the field?

On special teams, the Cardinals have a special player in return man Patrick Peterson, so the Eagles have to treat him with respect and make sure they don't give him a chance to beat them.

If the Eagles show up for this game and promptly jump offsides and commit false-start penalties and drop passes, well, it's fair to question the focus and the intensity.

The Eagles have talked the talk all week. They said they realize how much of a hole they are in. They said they understood that they have no margin for error. They said they were going to bounce back.

Talk is cheap at 3-5. Actions speak.

So let's see how this team plays against a struggling Arizona squad. If this is a game that drags on with Arizona close, close and closer, then you know that the Eagles just aren't into the moment. If the Eagles play as the talented team that they are, and they follow what the coaches want them to do, the results will be positive.

If the Eagles think this game is a gimme, they are in deep trouble in the short term and, for sure, in the big picture.

Welcome to the first game of the second half of the season. Anything can happen. Let's approach this with optimism and reality. The optimism stems from Andy Reid's track record and from the glimpses the Eagles have shown this season. The reality is that the Eagles are 3-5 and in dire need of a near-perfect second half of the season to reach the playoffs.

Arizona waits. So does opportunity. The Eagles have two choices: Win and keep the season alive, or lose and face a really difficult final seven weeks of the year.

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