October 07, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles will host the Cardinals on Sunday in what will be the former division foes' sixth meeting since Arizona beat the Birds in the NFC Championship Game back in January of 2009 – back when Donovan McNabb was still wearing midnight green.
And recent history hasn't been kind to the Eagles.
But those games featured very different Eagles teams with very different casts of characters – Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, Mike Vick, Kevin Kolb, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, the list goes on. None featured Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson, as 2016 marked the first year since 2010 in which these two teams didn't play in the regular season.
On Sunday, they'll get a chance to beat Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals, something they've struggled to do in the 34-year-old receiver's career; he's 5-2 against the Birds. But at least they'll get to do so at home, and without having to face running back David Johnson.
As always, here are your five over/unders for the Eagles' Week 5 game:
That's the total currently being offered over at Bovada, and based on my prediction (24-20, Eagles), that's right where I see the final score falling. However, if I was a betting man, I'd take the over.
If you look back at just the first half of each Eagles game, they'd consistently look like they were going to fall short of the over, but second-half scoring from them and, unfortunately, their opponents, has put their total at 47 points or more in each (or an average of 48.75 points/game). In each of the last two, that numbers been over 50 points.
So while I see it finishing right around 45 points, if you want to be on the safe side, take the over.
Earlier in the week, I wrote about the slow start we've seen from two of the Eagles' biggest offseason acquisitions, wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Through four games, they've combined for 27 catches for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with the majority of those numbers coming from Jeffery.
In their last two games, the Birds were faced two of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL in the Giants and Chargers, so the lack of production from their wideouts didn't seem to hurt – thanks in large part to a ground attack that averaged over 200 yards in those games. But against a Cardinals team that is allowing just 88 yards per game on the ground through the first quarter of the season, they may be forced to go a different route.
After two balanced games from Doug Pederson in which the Birds actually ran more than they threw, I could see that changing dramatically this week. And if that's the case, Jeffery and Smith should see plenty of targets from Carson Wentz.
With catch rates for both hovering around 50 percent this season, they'll just have to hold onto the ball if they want to make me look smart.
The hero of the Eagles' Week 4 win over the Chargers, Blount has been otherwise underwhelming so far this season. In fact, his 68-yard run last Sunday was more yards than he'd totaled in any of his first three games this season. And had it not been for that run, he would've finished with just 67 rushing yards, matching his previous season high.
Sure, the expected absence of Wendell Smallwood likely means a larger percentage of the workload going to the former Patriots back, but as I mentioned above, I see a more pass-heavy attack coming from the Eagles this weekend, and that doesn't bode well for Blount. In the first two games of the season, when they were relying much more heavily on Wentz's arm, Blount rushed for a grand total of 46 yards – and that all came in Week 1, as he failed to carry the ball once against the Chiefs, coincidentally their only loss of the season.
Fitzgerald has owned the Eagles in his career, and they 98.5 yards this over/under was based on is actually just below his career average against the Birds. Here's what I wrote about the Cardinals veteran receiver in our weekly predictions post:
Larry Fitzgerald may have just turned 34, but he's absolutely owned the Eagles in his career. In seven career regular season games, Fitzgerald has scored eight times (1.14 TD/game) and has caught 41 passes (5.9 receptions/game) for 693 yards (99 yards/game). The touchdown and yards averages are his best against any opponent he's faced at least five times.
Given the state of the Eagles secondary – coupled with the fact that they've struggled to sack the opposing quarterback in their last two games, and will be without Fletcher Cox again on Sunday – it's not hard to see Fitzgerald's dominance of the Eagles continuing again in Week 5.
But, like I went on to say in the predictions, I don't think that necessarily means a Cardinals win.
After eight sacks through their first two games of the season, the Eagles have recorded just two over their last two.
So why do I have the over/under for this so high? That's largely because of the Cardinals offensive line, or lack thereof. They've allowed 17 sacks so far this season, tied for the most in the NFL. If the Birds can do what they did last week against the Chargers – get ahead early and force the opposition to throw the ball – they should have plenty of chances.
Even without Fletcher Cox, there's a chance they hit the over in this one; it's not like the rest of their defensive front is incapable.
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