They’re back. And they could be better than ever.
Chip Kelly must know what he is doing. With the bye week coming immediately after a fantastic 27-0 statement win over division rivals the Giants, the Eagles (5-1) have gotten extremely healthy over the last 13 days.
From a depleted and makeshift offensive line just a few weeks ago, the Birds are on the cusp of getting both Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis back.
And Darren Sproles and Mychal Kendricks, both playmakers the Eagles rely on, are looking poised to return soon as well.
They may not be at full strength against the Cardinals Sunday, but they will be pretty darn close and hoping to replicate a 24-21 post-bye week win over Arizona last year.
Hit the ground running
The Cardinals have the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL. Arizona allows just 72.5 rushing yards per game (the Eagles rank 23rd in this category).
It will be important for Philadelphia to establish the running game and use its offensive line — a line that excelled against the Giants to weeks ago — to get LeSean McCoy into the Cardinals secondary.
“They run a lot of different looks on the defensive side of the ball,” Chip Kelly said, “so they can confuse you a little bit, but also they’ve got some really, really good football players on the defensive side of the ball.”
The run defense stat could be a little misleading, as the Cardinals, 5-1, have played from ahead a lot. This makes opponents much more likely to pass when playing from behind.
Watch out for weapons
The Cardinals have a different look than last year. In 2013 the Eagles defeated the Cardinals after their bye week en route to an NFL title. If the Eagles want a similar result this time, they will have to be up to the challenge of stopping a bevy of potent offensive threats.
“Carson [Palmer] came back against the Raiders and did a really nice job in his first game back,” Kelly said sizing up the Arizona offense. “Then [Andre] Ellington, who we didn’t see, I think is an added plus in the backfield, and then you add the receivers, so you’ve got [Larry] Fitzgerald, you’ve got [Michael] Floyd, and then they’ve got the young rookie in John Brown who’s a really explosive player.”
Despite the weapons, the Cardinals rank 28th in the NFL in total offense, averaging just 317.3 yards per game.
Give and take
The Cardinals have turned the ball over just four times in their six games. The Eagles have 14 turnovers. Clearly, the Eagles will have to work hard to continue their league-best takeaway streak against Arizona.
“Bruce Arians has always had great offenses and he’s a great offensive mind and has been for a long time in the NFL,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “You look at guys, not only are they not turning it over or giving up sacks, they’re spreading the ball around to the open guy.”
The Eagles have a -5 turnover differential, in contrast to the Cardinals +7 mark.