While the Philadelphia Eagles were resting and healing up from injuries in week 12 of the 2013 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals were busy handling the Indianapolis Colts and trying to get people to start taking them seriously. With the way that Arizona’s defense played against one of the better teams in the AFC, it’s really hard not to take at least the Cardinals’ defensive unit seriously.
The Cardinals were better than they have been for most of the year in defending the pass against Indy, allowing Andrew Luck to complete only 20 of his 39 passing attempts for just 163 yards while throwing a pick and just one touchdown pass. It was the Cardinals run defense, the second best defense against the run in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game, which was even more on display versus the Colts, though.
Arizona surrendered only 80 total yards on the ground to the Colts. Take out Luck’s two scrambles for 31 total yards and the Colts running backs combined for just 13 carries and 59 yards. Granted, the Colts’ running game has been pretty awful as of late, but the Cardinals certainly made them look every bit like an ailing part of the offense.
However, the Eagles will present much more of a challenge to the Cardinals in terms of their ability to run the ball and as they are playing with for much higher stakes. With the Dallas Cowboys winning on Thanksgiving Day, Philly needs to grab a victory to stayed tied atop the NFC East with Dallas with four games remaining after this week.
Nick Foles will obviously be looking to have a better game than Luck did last week against Arizona, which would mean him continuing his recent success. Even with throwing no touchdowns in the Eagles’ week 11 win, Foles has still combined to throw for 932 yards, 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions over his last three games. Not bad for a guy who started the season at number two on the depth chart and really struggled last year.
Even with Foles’ recent success, though, the lifeblood of the Philadelphia offense has been running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy currently leads the NFL in rushing yards, taking his 213 carries for 1,009 yards, though he’s only found the end-zone five times. Moreover, McCoy is the only back in the top-seven in rushing yards this season to have fewer than two fumbles to his name on the year.
The Eagles will be looking to see how lethal their running game can be, though, as it’s really strength vs. strength come Sunday. While the Eagles rank second in the league in rushing yards per game at 150.6, the Cardinals second-ranked run defense allows just 81.3 yards per game on the ground.
Foles will certainly be looking to light up a mediocre Cardinals pass defense, but McCoy offering a change of pace and balance to Philly’s offense is going to be huge. For the Eagles to keep pace with Dallas in the division race, Philadelphia must find a way to allow McCoy to be effective and break down this Arizona run defense.