Cards Up for East Coast Challenge?

The East Coast may seem innocent enough, but for West Coast teams it's the Bermuda Triangle. The Cardinals have suffered a pair of back-to-back marquee losses when flying east. Count the New York Jets and the Washington Redskins as the defeaters. As the season inches closer to an end, flying back west with a win could be a snapshot of the Cardinals playoff progression.

The Arizona Cardinals' post-season success could ride on fairing well on Thanksgiving night against the Philadelphia Eagles. The NFC East packs a powerful punch and if Arizona doesn't play its cards right on Thursday, they could feel the blow yet again.

On paper, the Cardinals are better. Arizona boasts a 7-4 record with the closest divisional foe at 3-8 (San Francisco 49ers). The Eagles dropped to 5-5-1 with a 36-6 loss at the Baltimore Ravens.

The Cardinals have a couple factors working in their favor in order to clinch the division on Thursday. A win against the Eagles would give the Cardinals the NFC West title, their first division title since 1975 (as part of the NFC East). If the Cardinals fall to Philadelphia, Seattle will needed to lose or tie the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday and the San Francisco 49ers would have to lose at the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The final scenario would be if the Cardinals tie in Philadelphia plus a San Francisco loss or tie to the Bills.

A win would make all the "what ifs" disappear. The Cardinals have history on their side.

Arizona has more wins against the Eagles than they do against any other franchise. The last meeting, was when the Cardinals celebrated Christmas Eve in 2005 with a 27-21 victory over Philly at Sun Devil Stadium.

But, the Cardinals have lost seven consecutive Thanksgiving games.

Gateway to the East

The Cardinals' division conquer is impressive considering the franchise's history, but the competition in the NFC West is weak in the grand scheme of the conference.


Jerheme Urban & Bertrand Berry
(Getty)

Although, the Cardinals swanked a 30-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys, they've bagged 75 percent of their losses from East Coast squads.

After a quick break, Arizona will look to prove it hasn't lost in swagger after being defeated at home by the New York Giants.

The Eagles appear to be falling apart at the seams. The Cardinals need to take advantage of QB Donovan McNabb's likely frustration from being benched last week. Arizona can win this game and get the confidence that a win on the East Coast would give them.

But if the Eagles get it together, they can pose a problem. The Cardinals will need to control Brian Westbrook who sat out for his second consecutive day Tuesday (knee swelling).

The Cardinals also need to keep pressure of Kurt Warner. Warner is as good as it gets. His throw all over the field method will keep Philadelphia occupied, as it must defend a lot of territory.

Warner gets the ball out of his hands quick, but he can't do it alone.

In the ill-fated New York Jets game, Brett Favre's defense got after Warner, fast and often.

"I'm not so sure if there was as much blitzing as there were some pass rushes and their coverage was pretty good," Giants' Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said of the Jets' pressure. "And then the game kind of got out of hand. They got up ahead real quick. And you can call defenses a little bit different. So they kind of laid their ears back and obviously they weren't going to see a lot of running plays. So I think that helped them. But I thought the Jets did a really good job on them, although they also found a way to score some points. So somehow, some way they do it."

Hopefully the Eagles won't watch too much of the Jets-Cardinals game tape.

As for Thursday, the Cardinals passing game isn't broken, so it shouldn't be fixed, but the run game needs help. The Eagles understand that the Cardinals are pass happy, but they won't abandon their run defense that ranks 11th in the league.

By now, the Eagles have Tim Hightower's number. He plays like some of the elite backs in the league. J.J. Arrington could pose a threat as he can come in and stir some things up, but Edgerrin James doesn't seem to have his heart in the one carry he's been gifted.


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