17 - Sacks allowed by the Cardinals, tied for most in the NFL.
The Cardinals have a lot of issues up front. Their offensive line isn’t all that great to begin with (24th in run blocking, 25th in pass blocking) and now they’re dealing with multiple injury issues. Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries has been ruled out of Sunday’s game. Starting left guard Mike Iupati is on injured reserve. Iupati’s top backup, Alex Boone, is a game-time decision after being ruled questionable on the final injury report.
Starting in place of Humphries will likely be John Wetzel. He’s allowed 25 total pressures in 196 pass block snaps this season, per Pro Football Focus. That ranks 54th out of 57 tackles. This game will be a big opportunity for Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett to generate pressure. Barnett is still looking for his first sack of the season and he just might get it this week. Heck, he might notch multiple takedowns.
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham is also poised for a big game. Starting right tackle Jared Veldheer has allowed 21 total pressures in 201 pass block snaps this season, per PFF. That ranks 49th out of 57 tackles.
The Cardinals’ tackles aren’t the only issue. The interior offensive linemen also struggle in pass protection. Starting right guard Evan Boehm has allowed 13 pressures in 201 snaps, which ranks 53rd out of 71 guards. Boone has been good in pass protection (13th out of 71) but hasn’t performed well as a run blocker. If Boone can’t play, the Cardinals will be starting the NFL’s worst pass protecting guard: Will Holden. He’s allowed nine pressures in just 57 snaps played. That’s 71st out of 71 guards. And then there’s center A.Q. Shipley. Yes, former Eagle A.Q. Shipley. Crazy how he’s lasted this long, right? Shipley has allowed seven pressures in 201 snaps, which ranks 17th out of 28 centers. This could be a big game for Tim Jernigan and/or Beau Allen.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. Everyone thought the Eagles were going to kill the Giants’ offensive line but they didn’t even register a sack. That’s true, but Philly’s defensive front totally forced the Giants into a quick-release offense that wasn’t very effective for the first three quarters of that Week 3 game. And just because the Giants did that doesn’t mean the Cardinals will copy the strategy. Arizona has a lot of speed at receiver and Bruce Arians likes to get vertical. Carson Palmer’s release time (11th) is slower than Eli Manning’s time to attempt (2nd).
The Eagles should have a lot of opportunities to sack Palmer. The rushers really need to get home in order to take pressure off their vulnerable secondary.
3.8 - Opponent rushing yards per attempt allowed by the Cardinals’ defense.
Arizona’s run defense ranks fifth best in the NFL.
Philadelphia rushed for a whopping total of 407 yards in their last two games. It’s going to be a challenge to be repeat those efforts against the Cardinals. Their run defense isn’t among the worst in the league like the Giants and Chargers.
Making matters tougher for the Eagles is that one of their best running backs, Wendell Smallwood, seems unlikely to play due to a knee injury.
The Eagles will have to rely on the likes of LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, and Kenjon Barner in order to move the ball on the ground. The good news is that Blount has looked pretty good for two weeks now. The Eagles should give him the ball early and see how he fares. His running style might be able to bust through a tough Cardinals run defense. I remember watching Marshawn Lynch being able to do that when he was with the Seahawks. Now, I’m not saying Blount is Lynch, but obviously they share some similarities in terms of running style.
The Eagles don’t need a massive performance from their rushing attack, though that’d certainly be nice. They just need to be able to move the ball efficiently and take some pressure off of Carson Wentz’s arm.
If the Eagles can’t run the ball at all, that’ll be a concern. Wentz has played well this season but it’d be ideal to not have him throw 40-plus times against a secondary that features talented defensive backs such as Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch, etc.
Philadelphia’s offensive line has really been mauling their opponents over the past two weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how they hold up against a tougher challenge this week.
63.3% - The Eagles’ chances of making the playoffs, per Football Outsiders.
The Eagles are currently sitting pretty at first in the NFC East at 3-1 with a 2-0 division/conference record. If they beat the Cardinals, they’ll be 4-1 with a 3-0 conference record and 2-0 division record. That certainly looks a lot better than the implications of falling to 3-2.
A win for Philadelphia this week would increase their playoff odds to around 80%. So this is an important game. The good news is the Eagles are favored to win this one. ESPN’s FPI model projects the Eagles-Cardinals game to be this week’s biggest blowout … in Philly’s favor. The Eagles have a 75.9% chance of winning.
Elsewhere in the NFC East, the Cowboys are set to play another important game this week. Last week’s loss to the Rams dropped Dallas’ playoff chances by 20%. A loss to the Green Bay Packers this week would be another big hit to the Cowboys’ postseason aspirations.
A rematch from the memorable NFC divisional round last season -- and a matchup of two of FPI's top five teams in the NFC -- is the highlight of the Sunday afternoon slate. The Packers currently are FPI's pick to end up with the top seed in the conference, but only narrowly. Green Bay is projected to win the top seed 17 percent of the time, just ahead of the Falcons at 16 percent. Dallas, however, is in a slightly less enviable position, currently projected to make the playoffs only 30 percent of the time.
While the leverage for both teams to make the playoffs is similar -- 19 percent for Dallas and 18 percent for Green Bay -- the Cowboys' situation is more desperate. A Dallas loss nearly halves its probability to reach the postseason, from 39 percent down to 20 percent, while the Packers would still be 60 percent to make the playoffs with a loss.
FPI has the game as a near coin flip, with the home Cowboys holding a slight 54 percent edge, so maybe we see 50-yard-plus field goals in the last 93 seconds again.
Go Pack Go.
The 0-4 New York Giants aren’t very relevant in the playoff conversation. Therefore, one could argue it’s better for them to win this week in order to lessen their odds at getting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. New York scoring a victory over the winless Chargers wouldn’t be very meaningful since L.A. is an AFC team. The G-Men would still be 0-4 in the conference and 0-2 in the division.
Washington doesn’t play this week after losing to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. They return from their bye to play the 49ers in Week 6. They’ll be without Josh Norman for that game and a few more.