Realistically, this is the first game the Eagles could lose — although it didn’t look particularly good when the Jaguars led 14-0 last Sunday.
The first place/last place Arizona Cardinals are 2-2 — losing to the Rams and Chiefs, and defeating the Raiders and Panthers. The Cardinals are 0-2 at home and 2-0 on the road.
These Eagles might believe they are on a mission greater than themselves. Four games, four victories, the NFL’s only undefeated team — who knows what’s out there for this team?
THREE PREDICTIONS YOU’LL LIKE
1. VERSATILE OFFENSE
The Eagles have won games through the air and on the ground. They are ranked second in total offense, fifth in rushing, sixth in passing and fourth in points scored.
The Cardinals’ defense is 17th overall, fifth against the rush and 23rd against the pass (Hello, A.J. Brown). They are 28th in points allowed.
Through the air seems to be the statistical way to go for the Eagles. Weather will not be a factor — forecast is 90 and sunny, if the retractable roof is open. Jalen Hurts has shown to be an excellent passer with terrific receivers in Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.
Expect Hurts to have a big day against a below-average pass defense.
2. HARD-CHARGING DEFENSE
The Eagles’ defense ranks third in the NFL. Four defensive players have been honored as the NFC players of the week.
They rank ninth against the rush, seventh against the pass and tied for ninth in points allowed.
There isn’t a ranking for chasing around mobile quarterbacks, such as Arizona’s Kyler Murray. The first three quarterbacks they faced were statues — Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz. Trevor Lawrence has some mobility but nothing like Murray.
The Eagles have a speedy defense. To win, they will have to contain Murray in the pocket as best they can. It’s not an easy task.
3. EAGLES WIN
The second-ranked offense and third-ranked defense — whether on the road or not — spells victory. The Cardinals always are a tough get but these Eagles seem destined for greatness. Winning a tough road game is a big step.
Eagles 34, Cardinals 24.
3 PREDICTIONS YOU WON’T LIKE
1. ZACH ERTZ
The former Eagles tight end has continued his strong play since being traded to the Cardinals last season.
Ertz, who scored the winning touchdown in Super Bowl 52, is a Philly icon.
- “I always think so highly of that play, of what he did in a one-on-one coverage against the Patriots on that slant that [former Eagles QB Nick] Foles threw him,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.
- “Zach is a really classy guy. He works his butt off. So my memories of Zach is the hard work he put in every single day to be at his best.
- “I thought that you saw that every day at practice. You saw that every day at a game, that he worked his butt off to maximize his potential. Obviously he’s still playing at a very high level.”
Expect Ertz to have a big game Sunday, finding seams in the secondary and maybe even downfield, past linebackers who are preoccupied with Murray.
2. KYLER MURRAY
For more than half of the 2021 season, Murray was considered the league’s MVP. The Eagles know he will bring a strong arm, quick feet and guts.
Hurts remembers him well going back to their high school days.
“Since I was in high school I always had a lot of respect for Kyler,” Hurts said. “I always remember him doing his thing in the DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth], at Allen [High], won every game he played in high school.
“That’s very impressive. He was able to do great things at OU [Oklahoma], in his collegiate career, winning the Heisman. Off to a great start in his career now — doing great things. So, I have a lot of respect for him.”
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon knows he needs some special sauce to stop Murray.
- “He has a very unique skillset,” Gannon said. “He’s very dangerous. He’s got arm talent. He runs around.
- “He’s not afraid to give ground and lose 20 yards from the line of scrimmage and runs around and finds open people. It’s hard to cover for a long time that long.
- “So, we’ve got to have a good plan and we’ve got to execute it and we’ve got to stay disciplined.”
Every defensive coordinator that plays Murray says this, but not many stop him. Gotta feeling that the Eagles are on everyone’s radar now, and Murray wants to show the way with a huge game.
3. CARDINALS WIN
The Cardinals always have been a tough out for the Eagles.
The Eagles haven’t won a game in the Valley of the Sun since Nov. 4, 2001 — five consecutive losses. James Thrash scored two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 21-7 win at Sun Devil Stadium.
The Eagles are only 5-3 against Arizona since 2000.
The Cardinals’ defensive line is led by J.J. Watt, a game-changer, and tackle Zach Allen. They can make an offense feel uncomfortable and look uninspiring.
If Murray runs wild and the defense stops the Eagles’ running game, expect an Arizona win, 27-24.