The Eagles head west for the first (not last?) time this season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. As anyone with a pulse in the Delaware Valley knows, the Birds are the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team. The Eagles haven’t beaten the Cardinals on the road since 2001 and are winless at what is currently State Farm (including the NFC Championship Game in 2008).
It won’t be a cakewalk. It’s nothing when there’s a zero in the loss column and every team knows how the football world shuts down the Eagles.
I’m getting more and more enamored with this game with every word I type. Seriously.
As I do every week, I’ve come up with five hypothetical over/unders for the game to 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.]
Jalen Hurts yards of total offense: 400.5
In Jalen Hurts’ second NFL start of 2020, he posted 401 yards of total offense in a 33-26 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It was a game where Eagles fans may have thought, “Huh, maybe they have something there,” after initially being confused as to why the team drafted Hurts. While it was a losing effort, it showcased some of Hurts’ main traits that he’s been able to fully bring together this season.
Hurts threw for three touchdowns and rushed for 338 yards. He also stood in his way through Cardinals All-Pro safety Budda Baker in the end zone:
Nearly two years later, these types of runs have become the norm for Hurts. Since the start of last season, Hurts’ 14 rushing touchdowns are tied for fourth in the NFL (via Stathead).
Here are Hurts’ total yards 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 a double-digit lead set in stone. I’m going wild this week and he says he’s at least 401 yards.
Stream TV segments comparing Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts: 1.5
Hurts, having played at both Alabama and Oklahoma in his college career, has a wide lineup of quarterbacks to compare to. He went in the same draft class as former Bama teammate Tua Tagovailoa, who was benched during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in 2017. Current Patriots QB Mac Jones was also on the Crimson Tide team.
Hurts transferred to Oklahoma for the 2019 season, which 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 the FOX crew is going to have a field day talking about two supremely athletic, talented quarterbacks who broke out in Norman once upon a time.
Dicker the Kicker made field goals: 0.5
Don’t expect kicker Jake Elliott to play in Week 5 because of the injury he suffered against the Jaguars. It doesn’t appear to be a long-term concern, but it will obviously affect the Eagles in Arizona. The Birds signed Cameron Dicker from Texas to play this week. Dicker hit 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 confidence will the Eagles have in Dicker on Sunday?
Playing in a dome definitely helps. He wasn’t thrown out there in conditions like the Rain Bowl last week.
The Eagles are already among the most aggressive teams in the league for the fourth time. Their 11 attempts this year (with seven successful conversions) are the third most in the NFL behind, coincidentally, the Cardinals (16) and Lions (12). When I’m in Cardinals territory on Sunday, I expect the Birds coaching staff to be even more willing to trust the offense on fourth down while Dicker is still a complete unknown.
I’m hitting below.
Eagles of the bag: 3.5
Here are Kyler Murray’s sacks in his four-year career and where those numbers rank among NFL QBs:
|in 2019||48||t-1 st|
After his rookie struggles, Murray quickly picked up the slack in terms of avoiding sacks. His breakout ability and focus on making the bigger play hasn’t led to the incredible number of sacks in the same way that, say, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz have. The most Murray has been sacked in a game this season is just two.
The Eagles, meanwhile, lead 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 turn back the clock, Josh Sweat continues his upward progression and Haason Reddick comes to town.
What will happen when a collection of Eagles forwards chase Murray as he tries to make something out of nothing?
The Eagles had a total of one, two, nine and four sacks this season. They should be able to chase Murray down and take him out of the game somewhat, but I have a hard time seeing great numbers fired again with Murray’s mobility. I’m going a little under with “only” three.
Eagles games played in Arizona this season: 1.5
My prediction for the Eagles before this season was more optimistic than most: I had them reaching the NFC Championship Game for the first time in five years, but they ended up losing to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Still, Brady without Gisela doesn’t look like the player he once was. Maybe this is like the story of Samson, but Gisele threw away all of Tom’s avocado ice cream and thus he lost his unparalleled powers.
In any case, I reserve the right to choose at random. I mean the Super Bowl, which will take place in Arizona on February 12. Obviously I thought the Birds would be better than consensus this year, but I didn’t expect them to win the way they did. Doesn’t sound bad, huh?
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