Saturday, December 24, 2005 - 4:05 p.m. Eastern
Since their embarrassing 42-0 loss to Seattle on Monday Night Football, the Eagles have shown at least a small bit of fire. They lost a heartbreaker to the Giants and then pulled out a win in St. Louis last weekend.
Ryan Moats has been at least serviceable in the last two games, gaining 192 yards on the ground to give the Eagles something close to a running game. No, nobody has forgotten the injured Brian Westbrook, but Moats' production has been better than fans might have hoped for. The bad news is that Moats has generally had one or two big carries in the game and then been shut down for long stretches. Last week against St.Louis, he had a 59 yard touchdown run and was then shutdown to gain just 19 yards on 11 carries for the rest of the game.
Look for RB Bruce Perry, who was signed off the practice squad this week, to get at least some carries. Lamar Gordon practiced sparingly this week because of ankle and foot problems and may not even be activated. If he is suited up, he will likely be held to very little action in favor of Moats and Perry.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Cardinals are 10-20 under Dennis Green. The turnaround that was expected hasn't been there and now, with Kurt Warner out, they're back to Josh McCown at quarterback. Even with McCown in the lineup, the Cardinals have an explosive set of receivers that the secondary will have to be aware of.
The Cardinals receiving tandem of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald have combined for 177 catches and 14 touchdowns this season. Combine that with the fact that the Eagles secondary has been banged up and it could get interesting. McCown had two big passing games just short of 400 yards when Warner was out earlier this season with a groin strain and has actually started most of the Cardinals' wins during Green's era. Perhaps the thing that makes McCown most dangerous is that both he and Warner have contracts that expire at the end of the season and the Cards will have to make some decisions. That could be a lot of incentive for McCown.
The Eagles fly to victory if...
The Eagles secondary, most likely to feature Ron Hood and Donald Strickland, who will be playing for an ailing Sheldon Brown, can shut down the Arizona receivers. Hood is one of the guys who has stepped up big-time and has played well for the Eagles of late. Strickland is looking for a starting job somewhere for next season and could do a lot to help himself if given the chance.
Perhaps the best way for the Eagles to shut down the receivers is to introduce McCown to the Arizona turf. With the Cardinals lack of a running game (it's the worst in the NFL), the Eagles should be able to focus on the pass and get in McCown's face. Jevon Kearse hasn't had a sack in the last four games and needs to get it done this week in Arizona.
The Cardinals win if...
The Eagles can't get some sort of consistency in the ground game. The Cardinals have an average defense, but they're slightly better against the pass than they are against the run. Plus, even though Mike McMahon has been "playing his heart out," according to Andy Reid, he hasn't been able to develop any sort of rhythm.
If Moats, Perry or somebody can't get some early ground game going and the Eagles try to use their passing game more than they want to, it's not going to bode well.