Eagles-Cardinals predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Cardinals predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles are 3-1 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

After playing three of their first four games on the road, they now come home to play four of their next five in the confines of Lincoln Financial Field.

Not a bad position to be in.

The Eagles host the 2-2 Cardinals on Sunday (1 p.m./FOX) in Week 5 with a chance to stay atop the division.

Will they improve to 4-1 before their Thursday night game in Week 6?

Our experts provide their predictions:

Reuben Frank (4-0)
For all their weapons, all their speed, all their explosiveness, the Arizona Cardinals have scored a grand total of six offensive touchdowns this year. Only the 49ers and Dolphins have scored fewer.

For the third straight week, the Eagles are facing a potential Hall of Fame quarterback, one who is capable of piling up the yards and points. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer all rank among the top 13 quarterbacks in NFL history in passing yards, so it’ll be another big challenge for this young, undermanned secondary. But the Eagles found a way to get past Manning and they found a way to get past Rivers, and I expect them to find a way to get past Palmer as well.

The Cards have a terrible offensive line and with David Johnson on the shelf, they don’t run the ball well at all. They’re averaging just 57 rushing yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. They’re one of only 22 teams in NFL history with fewer than 230 rushing yards and an average below 2.8 yards per carry four games into a season.

I don’t think a one-dimensional team can come into the Linc and beat the Eagles. I see this being a pretty easy one.

Eagles 30, Cardinals 17

Dave Zangaro (3-1)
The Eagles are going to miss Fletcher Cox and Wendell Smallwood, no doubt. But the Cardinals just aren't a very good football team. It seems like fans are remembering that 13-win team from a couple years ago and this team just isn't nearly that talented. The Cardinals come into this game with a 2-2 record and both of their wins have come in overtime. 

No, the Eagles haven't been perfect. But they're the better team. Even without Cox, the Eagles will be able to pressure Palmer, who stands behind a weak offensive line that has let him get sacked an NFL-high 17 times. 

Bruce Arians said he wants his team to be balanced but without Johnson, it can't seem to get the run game going. That makes the Cardinals extremely one-dimensional. They still have speed on the outside and Larry Fitzgerald inside but if Palmer doesn't have time to throw, it won't matter. 

The Eagles should win this game before a tough Thursday night matchup in Carolina. 

Eagles 27, Cardinals 17

Derrick Gunn (4-0)
The Cardinals have been hard to figure out. They struggled to beat the Colts and 49ers and got handled by the Lions and Cowboys. Their offense is ranked No. 11 overall, but they've struggled to score, averaging just 18.5 points. And they can’t run the ball, either. Since their star running back went down with a dislocated wrist, the Cards' run game has been stagnant and it currently sits dead last in the league in rushing (57 yards per game).

Palmer has the second-most passing yards but has been the most-sacked QB in the league (17 times). Their No. 7-ranked defense is big and rugged but suffered a big blow when LB Markus Golden was lost for the season with an ACL injury.

Carson Wentz has matured into his role in the offense, making better decisions with the ball. The Birds' run game has given them a balance that takes pressure off the QB. Cox has been ruled out, but there’s still enough talent in the trenches to make life miserable for Palmer. The back end of the Birds' defense is giving up too many big plays and that could be a big problem this week because the Cardinals' speed at wide receiver is better than the Chargers'. If Jim Schwartz's guys get to Palmer, the Birds will get the win. 

Eagles 24, Cardinals 20 

*Here are Derrick's Week 5 NFL picks.

Ray Didinger (4-0)
This was one of those games that looked tough — even a little scary — when the schedule first came out. The Eagles haven't had much luck against the Cardinals (1-5 since the January 2009 title game) or against the NFC West in general (2-9 in the last 11 meetings). I thought the Cardinals coming here early in the season when the weather was still good was a difficult matchup for an Eagles defense that had so many questions in the secondary.

The Eagles still have questions in the secondary — they rank 30th in pass defense — and we all know what the ageless Fitzgerald has done to the Eagles over the years, but the Cardinals aren't the team we thought they would be. The loss of Johnson, their star running back, has crippled the offense. They can't run the ball (2.7 yards per carry), so defenses are happily teeing off on Palmer, who is being sacked (17 times) and hit (43 times) more than any other quarterback in football. This should be a fun day for Schwartz's defense.

This looks like a matchup of one team on the way down and one team on the way up. The Eagles are the team on the way up.

Eagles 28, Cardinals 17

Andrew Kulp (4-0)
Fitzgerald could do some damage against this Eagles secondary — assuming Palmer has time to throw. Palmer will follow Rivers before him, and Manning before him, and get the ball out quickly. However, the Cardinals' O-line might be even worse than that of the Chargers or Giants, so even without Cox for the second week in a row, expect the 37-year-old quarterback to get bum-rushed.

Arizona's defense is what's kept the team in a lot of games, and I suspect it will do the same here. But while the Eagles' secondary might surrender a few big plays against a speedy receiving corps, the front should also be able to force some three-and-outs and provide the offense with favorable field position. Wentz is taking care of the football, and Jake Elliott is feeling it right now, so it should be just enough.

Eagles 23, Cardinals 21

Corey Seidman (2-2)
This is a great spot for the Eagles' defense against a bad Cardinals offensive line that has allowed 16 sacks in its last three games and a turnover-prone Palmer, who already has five interceptions and a fumble.

It should be a tough day for Alshon Jeffery, so the Eagles will need more out of Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor. I also expect an Eagles defensive touchdown in this one.

Eagles 27, Cardinals 17

Andy Schwartz (4-0) 
Hmm, are the Eagles due for a clunker? 

Could be, especially considering it’s the Cardinals. Ricky Proehl and MarTay Jenkins still give me nightmares.

And now they still have the venerable Fitzgerald, who always hammers the Eagles.

You can bet Schwartz will quadruple team Fitzgerald and force the Cardinals to beat the Birds another way. 

But they won’t. Not this week.

Fitz will still get his, but the Cards — sans Johnson — don’t have enough firepower, especially after a cross-country trip. 

Eagles 23, Cardinals 17

Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

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Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

Rasul Douglas made a huge play during the special teams portion of Wednesday's practice. Going 1-on-1 against veteran special teamer Najee Goode, the Eagles' rookie plowed through him and sent Goode to the turf inside the practice bubble. 

Goode bounced up and locked down the next rep, but for a few seconds, there was pure exuberance on the practice field. A bunch of Douglas' teammates ran toward him and celebrated, while coaches gave him kudos. 

A couple hours later, Douglas didn't even remember it. 

"What play?" the rookie asked. 

After making sure he was serious, out came an iPhone to show Douglas this video: 

"Oh, I don't even remember that," he said. 

While Douglas might have been locked in and focused enough to forget about the most exciting play during the open portion of Wednesday's practice, it was the kind of play that got the whole team going. 

Without remembering the specific instance, Douglas rightly guessed that it was his defensive back teammates, who ran over to congratulate him and celebrate. 

"We get so happy when one of us makes a play because we work hard and we know our goals in our room," Douglas said. "And we know our energy transforms and just passes along to other people. You can get somebody energized and they get somebody else energized." 

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to have his team in pads Wednesday in an effort to keep the team's intensity and physicality high as the team gets ready for the NFC Championship Game. 

That play helped. 

"I think Coach Pederson talks about it all the time; match his intensity," linebacker Nate Gerry said. "So when you see something like that, I guess that's matching the intensity. It just kind of sets the tone for practice."

During the Eagles' first-round bye, the team's players council went to Pederson and asked for an extra day in pads. Pederson planned on one leading into the divisional round game against the Falcons, but his veteran leaders didn't want to go an extra week without that intensity, so the Eagles strapped on their pads. 

They did it again last week and they did it again Wednesday. 

All season the Eagles have believed they're going to play the way they practice, so it shouldn't be much of a shocker. Pederson and the Eagles — despite all the hoopla around the championship — tried to treat Wednesday like any other Wednesday. In part, that meant getting the pads on and going through a tough practice. 

"We ain't going to play on Sunday without pads, so you just have keep in tune with what you do," Douglas said. "I think pads are good." 

Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

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Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has moved into the top 10 in NFL jersey sales this week, according to national sales figures from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

This week’s Dick’s Jersey Report shows Ertz making the biggest jump in the top 10, moving up 22 spots from No. 29 last week to No. 7 this week.

“There must have been a lot of women’s soccer fans buying jerseys this week,” Ertz said jokingly, referring to his wife Julie, a member of the U.S. Olympic soccer team.

Could be. It’s not like Ertz had a huge game Saturday. He caught three passes for 32 yards in the Eagles’ 15-10 win over the Falcons in the conference semifinal playoff round at the Linc. But he did make his first Pro Bowl this year and finished the season with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight touchdowns.

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught the miracle last-second pass from Case Keenum to send the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia on Sunday, also made a huge jump, moving from No. 23 to No. 4.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz remains in the No. 2 position in jersey sales, despite not playing since he tore his ACL Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Only Tom Brady’s jersey sold better over the past week.

The rest of the top 10 is Rob Gronkowski third, Antonio Brown fifth, Leonard Fournette sixth, T.J. Watt eighth, Julio Jones ninth and Le’Veon Bell 10th.

Wentz remains the top-selling jersey this year, according to Dick’s after finishing last year at No. 3. Tom Brady, the top-selling jersey last year, is No. 2, followed by Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Gronkowski.

There are no Eagles other than Wentz and Ertz in the top 50.