October 08, 2022
The Eagles are headed West for the first (not the last?) time this season with their matchup against the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday. As everyone with a pulse in the Delaware Valley knows, the Birds are the NFL's lone remaining undefeated team. The Eagles have not beaten the Cardinals on the road since 2001 and are winless in the currently named State Farm Stadium (including the 2008 NFC Championship Game).
It won't be a cakewalk. Nothing is when there's a zero in the loss column and every team knows the way the football world is gassing up the Eagles.
I'm getting increasingly more stoked for this game with every word I type. Seriously.
As I do every week, I've come up with five imaginary over/unders for the game that I'll discuss.
[A quick reminder for those new to our over/unders: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, these are my own numbers based on how I think the players/teams will perform that week — and the advice that follows is where I would put my money if I had to.]
In Jalen Hurts' second-ever NFL start back in 2020, he recorded 401 yards of total offense in a 33-26 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona. It was a game where Eagles fans might have been thinking, "Huh, they might have something there," after initially being confused as all hell as to why the team drafted Hurts. Though it was a losing effort, it showcased some of Hurts' prime traits that he's been able to fully put together this season.
Hurts threw three touchdowns and racked up 338 yards through the air. He also bulled in his way through Cardinals All-Pro safety Budda Baker into the end zone:
Here are Hurts' total yardage numbers per game so far this year:
Hurts easily eclipses 400 yards against both the Vikings and Commanders if the offense doesn't take their foot off the pedal in the second half with double-digit leads set in stone. I'll go wild this week and says he records at least 401 yards.
Hurts, given that he played for both Alabama and Oklahoma in his collegiate career, has a wide cast of quarterbacks to be compared to. He went in the same draft class as former Bama teammate Tua Tagovailoa, who he was benched in favor of during the 2017 College Football National Championship Game. Current Patriots QB Mac Jones was also on that Crimson Tide squad.
Hurts transferred to Oklahoma for the 2019 season, which had produced Heisman Trophy winners and first-overall picks in back-to-back years: Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Murray and Hurts will now face off in the pros for the second time. I have a feeling that the FOX broadcast crew will have a field day talking about the two uber-athletic, talented quarterbacks who both balled out in Norman once upon a time.
Don't expect kicker Jake Elliott to play in Week 5 due to an injury he sustained against the Jaguars. It doesn't appear to be a longterm concern, but it obviously will impact the Eagles in Arizona. The Birds have signed Cameron Dicker out of Texas to kick this week. Dicker made 86.7 percent of his field goals (13/15) and 98.0 percent of his extra points (48/50) for the Longhorns in 2021.
How much faith will the Eagles have in Dicker on Sunday?
Playing in a dome definitely helps. He isn't being thrown out there in conditions like last Sunday's Rain Bowl.
The Eagles are already among the most aggressive teams in the league in going for it on fourth time. Their 11 attempts this year (with seven successful conversions) are third most in the NFL behind, coincidentally, the Cardinals (16) and the Lions (12). When in Cardinals territory on Sunday, I expect the Birds' coaching staff to be even more willing to trust the offense on fourth down with Dicker being a total unknown still.
I'm hitting the under.
Here are Kyler Murray's sack numbers across his four-year career and where those figures ranked among NFL QBs:
After his rookie woes, Murray settled in quickly in terms of avoiding sacks. His escapability and focus on creating a bigger play hasn't led to sky-high sacks numbers the same way it has for, say, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz. The most that Murray has been sacked in a game this season is just twice.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are tops in the NFL in sacks so far in the 2022 campaign with 16. They had just 29 in 17 games last season. That big jump happens when Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are turning back the clock, Josh Sweat is continuing his upward progression and Haason Reddick comes to town.
What'll happen when the Eagles' collection of pass-rushers are chasing down Murray when he's trying to make something out of nothing?
The Eagles have had sack totals, in order, of one, two, nine and four this season. They should be able to get after Murray and get him off his game to a degree, but I have a hard time seeing gaudy sack numbers again with Murray's mobility. I'll go slightly under here with "just" three.
My Eagles prediction before this season was more optimistic than most: I had them reaching the NFC Championship Game for the first time in five years, but ultimately losing to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Gisele-less Brady doesn't quite to seem to be the player he once was though. Maybe this is like the story of Samson, but Gisele threw out all of Tom's avocado ice cream and that's how he lost his unparalleled powers.
Anyway, I reserve the right to chance my pick. I'm thinking Super Bowl, which will be held in Arizona on February 12. I clearly thought the Birds would be better than the consensus this year, but I didn't expect them to win the way they're winning. Escaping the early February Philly weather for a week in Arizona doesn't sound too bad, huh?
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