A first-round bye and the NFC West title are both for the Arizona Cardinals (11-2) taking, they just have to extend their seven-game winning streak against a Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) squad in hot pursuit of the NFC East crown on “Sunday Night Football” from Lincoln Financial Field.
The Week 15 matchup, a rematch of last year’s 24-20 victory by the Cardinals, could have far-ranging implications for both squads as they angle for postseason position. Arizona can sew up its first division title since 2009 should it prevail or if rival Seattle falls to Cleveland. The Cardinals could even secure a first-round bye with a victory coupled with a Green Bay loss to Oakland.
Unlike the Cardinals, who have already guaranteed themselves a place at the postseason table, the Eagles are in a rabid fight with the New York Giants and Washington for the NFC East. Philadelphia essentially saved its season by toppling New England and Buffalo in consecutive weeks, and now it’s lodged in a three-way tie atop the division.
Philadelphia’s best chances rest in winning its final three games, a task that won’t come easy against an Arizona offense averaging a NFL-best 417.5 yards and ranking second with 31.2 points a contest thanks to quarterback Carson Palmer.
The 35-year-old Palmer, who appeared in only six games last season after tearing his ACL, is well on pace to shatter his career-highs with 4,003 passing yards and 31 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions and he’s second in the league with a 107.2 passer rating.
Dropping bombs to top receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, with speedster John Brown another deep threat, Palmer will ceaselessly test an Eagles defense that’s No. 27 overall in the NFL, and No. 24 versus the pass. Philadelphia’s secondary has allowed 29 passing touchdowns this season, the second-worst mark in the league.
But the Eagles have looked impressive the last two weeks. After sitting out two games due to injury, quarterback Sam Bradford’s launched three touchdowns to one interception the last two weeks and veteran rusher Darren Sproles has taken advantage of DeMarco Murray’s on-going feud with head coach Chip Kelly to lead the Eagles in rushing.
The former Charger and Saint has gained 107 yards and scored one touchdown off 22 attempts between New England and Buffalo, and he’s caught another six balls for 38 yards.
Still, it’s the Eagles defense that’s afforded Bradford and Sproles more opportunities. Philadelphia forced two turnovers apiece out of Buffalo and New England, two squads that rank in the top 10 in turnovers lost.
Betting Odds: Arizona -3.5
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: Philadelphia over Arizona, 27-23