Eagles-Cardinals scouting report

Posted: November 26, 2008

Recent history: The Eagles lost to the Cardinals, 27-21 on Dec. 24, 2005, in Phoenix. The Eagles lead the series between the franchises, 53-54-5.

OFFENSE

Eagles: 349.5 yards per game (9th)

Cardinals: 390.7 yards per game (2nd)

Quarterback

Eagles: Andy Reid tried to kick-start the offense in the second half Sunday by benching struggling Donovan McNabb and going with Kevin Kolb. But that didn't work, and now he's going back to McNabb, who has turned the ball over seven times in the last six quarters and has a miserable .526 completion percentage in the last 5 games.

Cardinals: Kurt Warner's biggest weakness still is his propensity for fumbling. He's put the ball on the ground nine times this season and has lost six. He's as good as there is vs. the blitz. According to STATS Inc., he's been blitzed 135 times this season and has completed 96 passes, with 10 TDs, one inteception and four sacks.

PICK: CARDINALS

Running back

Eagles: The Eagles have only 1 healthy running back – Lorenzo Booker – and he's been inactive the last three games. The short week is only going to exacerbate Brian Westbrook's knee and ankle injuries. And backup Correll Buckhalter injured his knee Sunday and probably won't play. If they run the ball 15 times tomorrow, it'll be a lot.

Cardinals: Like the Eagles, the Cardinals throw the ball a lot more than they run it. Since Week 3, they've had just two games with 25-plus rushing attempts. Edgerrin James has been relegated to the bench. Rookie Tim Hightower is an effective short-yardage guy, and J.J. Arrington is a Brian Westbrook clone.

PICK: CARDINALS

Receiver

Eagles: Rookie DeSean Jackson has a team-high 47 receptions, but just one touchdown catch, and that came in Week 4. Collectively, Eagles wide receivers have 140 catches, but only seven for TDs. TE L.J. Smith was benched last week, playing mainly in two-tight end sets, which the Eagles only used about a dozen times.

Cardinals: Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are the best WR tandem in the game. They've combined for 145 catches, 1,889 yards and 17 TDs. Boldin is an outstanding yards-after-the-catch receiver. Fitzgerald is strong and athletic and is a nightmarish matchup for smaller corners.

PICK: CARDINALS

Offensive line

Eagles: Time and again in short-yardage situations, this unit has been unable to get any surge against opposing defenses. Last week's failed quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line was the latest example of that. Pass protection, for the most part, has been good. They're seventh in sacks per pass play (just 17 in 449 pass plays).

Cardinals: Cardinals' o-line struggled last week against the Giants' blitz packages, but only gave up one sack. Since giving up five sacks to the Jets in Week 4, Cardinals have allowed just seven in the last seven games. Cardinals are averaging just 24.3 rushing attempts per game, but have 13 rushing touchdowns.

PICK: CARDINALS

DEFENSE

Eagles: 288.6 yards per game (6th)

Cardinals: 301.7 yards per game (11th)

Defensive line

Eagles: Cardinals use mainly 3- and 4-wide receiver formations, so Jim Johnson's nickel and dime personnel will be on the field more than his base group. That means more Darren Howard and Victor Abiamiri at the tackle spots and less Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson. RE Trent Cole has four sacks in the last three games.

Cardinals: They are a hybrid 3-4 defense that switches to a four-man front in passing situations, which, against the Eagles, will be on almost every down. None of their down-linemen are great pass-rushers. Cardinals have only 24 sacks, just eight in the last six games.

PICK: EAGLES

Linebacker

Eagles: Last November, Jim Johnson frequently used SLB Chris Gocong, a former college DE, as a pass-rusher against the Patriots' four-WR sets. The strategy helped the Eagles' defense keep Tom Brady off-balance. Johnson just might employ the same strategy tomorrow against the Cardinals' four-WR formations.

Cardinals: WLB Karlos Dansby is a fast, athletic playmaker who is outstanding in coverage. His speed makes running screens to his side next to impossible. Former Steeler Clark Haggans is a solid run-defender and pass-rusher, but he missed the Giants game with a foot injury and is questionable for tomorrow's game.

PICK: CARDINALS

Secondary

Eagles: Eagles have just one interception in the last four games. If Asante Samuel, who suffered a neck stinger against Baltimore, can't play, it's going to leave the Eagles at a major matchup disadvantage vs. Cards' four-WR sets. They'll have to replace Samuel with S Sean Considine in their dime package.

Cardinals: They have given up a league-high 22 touchdown passes. Six of their last nine opponents had a 65-plus completion percentage vs. them. Ex-Eagle CB Rod Hood has just one interception and is nursing a sore rib. Rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has a lot of talent, but still makes a lot of mistakes.

PICK: EAGLES

Special teams

Eagles: KR Quintin Demps and PR DeSean Jackson both are home-run threats who could have a positive influence on field position against the Cardinals' struggling coverage units. P Sav Rocca's net average has dropped 4 yards (from 41.9 to 37.9) in the last five games.

Cardinals: Cards' coverage units have been a problem. They're 25th in punt coverage and 28th in kickoff coverage. Gave up 83- and 68-yard KRs to the Giants' Domenik Hixon last week. J.J. Arrington is third in the league in KRs with a 29.4-yard average. PK Neil Rackers has one of the league's strongest legs.

PICK: EVEN

Hot and not

HOT:

Eagles: DE Trent Cole. Had eight tackles vs. Ravens. Has four sacks in last three games.

Cardinals: WR Anquan Boldin. Has 24 catches in the last two games, including 11 vs. Giants last week.

NOT:

Eagles: RB Brian Westbrook. Is averaging just 3.5 yards per touch in the last four games.

Cardinals: RB Edgerrin James. Has just four rushing attempts for 4 yards in the last four games.

Key matchups

1. Eagles RDE Trent Cole vs. Cardinals LT Mike Gandy. Cole has four sacks in the last three games. ADVANTAGE: EAGLES

2. Eagles CBs Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard or Asante Samuel vs. Cardinals WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Boldin and Fitzgerald have combined for 17 TD catches. ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

3. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook vs. Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby. If Westbrook were healthy, this would be tough to call. But he's not. ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

Domowitch's prediction

Cardinals 31, Eagles 17

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