The Philadelphia Eagles were expected to be in this position, winning five of their first six games and fighting for the top spot in the NFC. The same can’t be said for the Arizona Cardinals, but they enter their Week 8 matchup with Philadelphia as one of the NFL’s biggest surprises.
Like the Eagles, the Cardinals will put a 5-1 record on the line this Sunday. Their hot start has them in first place in what was predicted to be the toughest division in football.
The defending champion Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers began the 2014 season as the favorites in the conference, but Arizona leads both of them in the NFC West. Seattle has split their first six games, and Arizona got a victory over San Francisco in their only divisional matchup.
Arizona isn’t in first place by simply beating bad teams. They have victories over the winless Oakland Raiders and 2-5 Washington Redskins, but they’ve also defeated the 49ers and San Diego Chargers.
The Cardinals have lost just one game, despite instability at quarterback. Carson Palmer helped Arizona win the season opener, but was forced to sit out three games with a shoulder injury. Drew Stanton replaced him, going 2-1 as the starter.
Palmer is undefeated in 2014, throwing six touchdowns and one interception. He has a chance to put up big numbers against the visiting Eagles, who rank 23rd in pass defense.
Their secondary might not be among the best in the league, but Philadelphia’s defensive front could give Palmer a lot of trouble. The Eagles sacked the quarterback 12 times in their last two games, and should be well prepared coming off their bye week.
Nick Foles has struggled with turnovers after throwing just two interceptions last year. He has seven picks in six games, and Arizona is tied for third with eight interceptions on the season.
The most important matchup to watch might be Philadelphia’s ground game versus the Arizona run defense. The Cardinals have been the best team at stopping the run in 2014, and LeSean McCoy has been disappointing, following his 1,607-yard season in 2013.
Prior to the bye, McCoy had his best game of the season, finally rushing for over 100 yards and averaging more than four yards per carry. Darren Sproles sprained his MCL in Week 6, but he did practice on Tuesday. The running back has 409 combined rushing and receiving yards on the season.
The matchup is the only one in Week 8 that features two teams that only have one loss. Philadelphia is considered to be the slightly better team, since the Las Vegas betting odds have the Eagles getting 2.5 points on the road. The over/under is 50 total points.
Prediction: The Cardinals have proven that they should be a contender for the entire season. The Eagles might be able to have some success through the air, but they could have trouble establishing the run, and Foles has made too many miscues to be trusted on the road against a first-place team.
Predicted Score: Arizona 27, Philadelphia 24