PHOENIX, Ariz. -- This is a town of Midnight Green and "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!" chants but when the roof closes at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon, it's all about football. Who plays for the Eagles? Who emerges to make the difference?
There are a lot of questions about the Eagles as they finish their prep for the Arizona Cardinals, a team that has played physical, intelligent football to mix with a very talented roster on the way to an NFC West-best 5-1 record.
Let's get to some of the questions and some of the off-the-top-of-the-head thoughts as kickoff nears ...
- There are conflicting reports on whether linebacker Mychal Kendricks and running back/kick returner Darren Sproles play in this game. They are both listed as questionable, along with center Jason Kelce. There is no team update on the medical conditions. It could very well come down to how Kendricks and Sproles feel when they wake and loosen up on Sunday. Jeremy Maclin is a prime candidate to return punts if Sproles can't, which is obviously a bit of a risk given Maclin's importance to the offense. He was a game-breaking punt return man at Missouri, remember. Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho would fill in if Kendricks can't go again, and they've both played well in his absence. Chris Polk would likely play a key role should Sproles not be available to mix in with LeSean McCoy.
- It's expected to be 88 degrees on Sunday, and the Cardinals close the roof at the stadium when the mercury hits 90 degrees, but the expectation here is that the roof will be closed for the game.
- Linebacker Trent Cole is one of the few Eagles (along with offensive lineman Todd Herremans, tight end Brent Celek and long snapper Jon Dorenbos) who were here when the Eagles lost to Arizona in the 2008 NFC Championship Game. The memories are painful. "It's always been a battle with them. There's always moments that I haven't forgotten," said Cole when he arrived at the team hotel on Saturday. "We were a game away from being in the Super Bowl. That's in my memories of playing against the Cardinals. We're back here again. It's a new season. We're doing well as a team. We've just got to keep improving upon what we've started, go in there and win and take it back to Philadelphia."
- Arizona plays a lot of man-to-man coverage with their outstanding cornerbacks, Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie, but how much depth does the defense have at cornerback? We'll see how Jordan Matthews fares in the slot, along with the tight ends. Zach Ertz had a pair of touchdown catches against Arizona at Lincoln Financial Field last season. Matthews said on Saturday that he is impressed with an Arizona defense that has overcome some injuries to play very well. "They're a resilient team. They've had injuries, but it hasn't seemed to slow them down that much," said Matthews. "They've got so much talent on the back end too and it gives their defensive line and linebackers a lot of time to get to where they need to get to. It's going to be a tough matchup, but we've got to go in, play hard and try to come out with a win."
- The Eagles are 12-2 in their last 14 regular season games. Think about that. The team is 0-2 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
- A good start is vitally important here, and the defense has shown this season that it can get things going early. The Eagles have 9 quarterback sacks in the first quarter, best in the NFL. "We just come out to play and have a lot of energy," said linebacker Connor Barwin. "We're aggressive right from the start of the game."
- If the Eagles can force some turnovers from an Arizona team that is a plus-7 in turnover ratio, chances are the Eagles will put some points on the board. The Eagles are tied for fifth in the league with 45 points from takeaways.
- How much does the back end of the draft count? A ton. Consider that the Eagles have four players on the active roster who were drafted in the seventh round: punter Donnie Jones (Seattle, 2004), cornerback Cary Williams (Tennessee, 2008), center David Molk (San Diego, 2012) and nose tackle Beau Allen (Philadelphia, 2014).
- Neither Larry Fitzgerald nor Michael Floyd are known as receivers with ridiculous straight ahead blazing speed. They can get deep, of course, but they aren't known as fliers. Rookie John Brown is. He's got great speed and has been productive with 17 catches and 3 touchdowns early in his career. "He can get you deep so that's something we have to be aware of," said safety Nate Allen. "They have a lot of weapons. They can score in a lot of ways and we know that."