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The Eagles rivalry that never was, but could be

Old friends meet again

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Sunday is the start of what may be the NFC’s next marquee QB matchup, if only by default.

Tom Brady is 45, Aaron Rodgers is 38, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford are 34, Dak Prescott is 29. The Giants, Seahawks, Lions, Saints, Commanders, Panthers, Falcons, and Bears will or should be in the market for a QB in the next year or two, none of whom are guaranteed to be good or young. Meanwhile Jalen Hurts is 24 and Kyler Murray is 25. The only other NFC team guaranteed to have a starting QB under the age of 30 next year are the 49ers with Trey Lance. The decks are going to get cleared soon, and the NFL is going to need QB matchups to market. Two young, exciting, dual threat QBs going head to head is going to be a big deal while most of the conference runs out washed, stop gap, or rookie QBs in the next few seasons.

The Eagles and Cardinals will definitely play each other again next season in Philadelphia, and if they finish with the same divisional rank in 2023, will play each other in 2024. And it is possible they meet in the playoffs during any of those seasons. Those future regular season games are ripe for national TV if only because the NFC could very well be a wasteland of QB play over the next couple of seasons until a new crop emerges.

In which case regardless of how good the two teams as a whole are, it might actually be a respectable rivalry of sorts, if only for a few seasons. Which would be kind of funny because for decades these two franchises were forgettable division rivals.

A most lackluster rivalry

Twenty years ago the NFL expanded to 32 teams, moving the league to four divisions of four teams. This finally rid the world of the Arizona Cardinals from the NFC East, a “rivalry” that never was a rivalry and never made any sense. The Eagles and Cardinals were drawn together in 1970 when the league, unable to come to an agreement on alignment for the AFL-NFL merger, put five plans in a bowl and Pete Rozelle’s secretary chose one. Really.

This gave us over three decades of a completely forgettable divisional matchup. They never faced each other in the playoffs as division rivals, nor did one ever make the playoffs at the expense of the other. There is barely any history of wild games between the two, there have only been five games as division rivals where one team was down by more than 14 points and won, and only two of them occurred since the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988. The most memorable game between the two might be when Donovan McNabb threw four touchdowns on a broken ankle, the only role the Cardinals played in that game was that they participated.

The one time this threatened to become an actual rivalry that involved feelings was when the Cardinals hired Buddy Ryan in 1994. Ryan brought with him a few of his former Eagles in Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Andre Waters, Terry Hoage, and Jim McMahon, along with several coaches. Ryan was fired after two seasons and went 1-3 against the Eagles.

It’s still geographically dumb that the Dallas Cowboys are in the NFC East, but at least there are legit rivalries with the rest of the division that have their roots from decades ago. The Cardinals were always at the kids table, pun intended–current owner Michael Bidwill got the team from his dad Bill, who got the team from his parents. During Bill Bidwill’s ownership the team was staggeringly incompetent. From the 1970 merger to 2001, their last season regularly traveling to the east coast, the Cardinals made the playoffs just four times. They finished 3rd in the division or better just 11 times. This was a rivalry the same way Alabama and Vanderbilt are rivals.

So when the Eagles and Cardinals kickoff on Sunday it’ll be just another game for now, until someday maybe it isn’t. Which is the way it always felt even when it technically wasn’t.

Rank: Adjective. Shocking in odor or flavor.

This season The Ringer has a QB ranking that is updated weekly. You should check it out because it is hilarious.

At various points Geno Smith, Marcus Mariota, Mac Jones, Jameis Winston, and Baker Mayfield were ranked ahead of Jalen Hurts. Currently Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Trevor Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, and Derek Carr rank above Hurts. After Hurts outplayed Trevor Lawrence head to head, Lawrence moved up and Hurts moved down.

The list is a wealth of humor. Dak Prescott hasn’t played since the season opener—and played poorly in it—but this week he moved up two spots. Trey Lance, who apparently “has the mental chops to succeed at the NFL level” even though he entered the season with only 71 career passing attempts to base that claim off of, remains ranked even though he had a season ending injury in Week 2, and last week he moved up in the rankings. After Carson Wentz took 9 sacks he didn’t move down. This week Geno Smith moved up six spots after throwing only two touchdowns against the league’s worst scoring defense. The player tags are great too. Cooper Rush, who is 28 and has four career starts, “knows ball.” Baker Mayfield has “got that dawg in him” and is a “gamer.” Trey Lance, who has two interceptions combined in his admittedly short college and pro career, is “volatile.” Mac Jones has “deceptive eyes” whatever that means.

None of this makes any sense. Well, that’s not quite right. Kyler Murray has the “gamer” tag, and that is literally true.

Stat of the Week That May Only Interest Me

When a team goes for it on fourth-and-1, in non-goal-line situations, they make it seven times out of 10.

QB sneak works an absurd 83% of the time. Joel Embiid, who is money from the free throw line, is more likely to miss than a QB sneak is. It would probably be an added benefit if your QB can squat a couple of Joel Embiids.

Top 5 Val Kilmer Lines From Tombstone

1. I’m your Huckleberry.

2. Evidently Mr. Ringo is an educated man. Now I really hate him.

3. Oh Johnny, I apologize, I forgot you were there. You may go now.

4. You look like someone just walked over your grave.

5. I have two guns, one for each of you.

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