The700Level

Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Cardinals

Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Cardinals

The Eagles and the Cardinals may be close in the standings, but have the looks of two teams going in different directions. The Eagles feel like they are on the rise, while the Cardinals are just trying to weather a really bad storm.

That might seem unfair, but consider the circumstances. The Eagles are 3-1, winners of two straight and two of three on the road to begin the 2017 season. Arizona is 2-2, with both victories coming in overtime, against teams with one win combined.

This wasn’t necessarily supposed to be the case when the season began. There was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the Eagles. The Cardinals were supposed to be better than this. Where exactly is the divide?

QUARTERBACKS

It’s a battle of Carsons under center. Carson Wentz is having the much better season than Carson Palmer thus far. Wentz has a higher completion percentage (60.5 to 59.0), yards per reception (7.2 to 7.0) and fewer turnovers (3 to 5) through four games, not to mention brings mobility to the table. Palmer is stuck behind a crummy offensive line, which may be largely to blame for his struggles this season, but he’s also a statue in the pocket and approaching 38 years old in December. At this stage of their careers, Wentz is the more dynamic of the two.

Very slight edge: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

Both clubs are down a back, but the Cardinals losing David Johnson is a much bigger deal than the Eagles losing Darren Sproles. Johnson had become the key component of Arizona’s offense, leading the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in 2016. The likes of Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington can’t begin to replace that. The Eagles could be minus Wendell Smallwood as well, but got LeGarrette Blount back on track the last two weeks. Blount is the most effective back on the field, perhaps followed by Corey Clement, also for the Birds.

Edge: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Statistically speaking, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is the most productive player on either side, but Cardinals slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t far behind. Ertz has the edge in yards (326 to 276), Fitzgerald in touchdowns (2 to 1). The comparison boils down to which supporting cast is better. In terms of name recognition, that would be the Eagles with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith. Arizona has a ton of speed on the outside, though, between J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown and John Brown. It’s close, but the Eagles’ targets are a bit more versatile.

Very slight edge: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINE

There’s really no comparison. The Eagles' offensive line has been living up to its reputation as one of the best in the NFL the past few weeks, protecting Wentz and paving the way for backs. The Cardinals' O-line is working on getting their senior citizen quarterback killed and has been unable to open up holes for ball carriers — not even David Johnson. Injuries are certainly part of the problem. Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) hasn’t practiced all week, while starting left guard Alex Boone (chest) has been limited.

Very distinct edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN

Chandler Jones is a monster. With 4.0 sacks, eight tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits, the Cardinals' outside linebacker has been more disruptive in opposing backfields than anybody in an Eagles uniform. Meanwhile, Fletcher Cox is out again for the Birds, so it’s up to Brandon Graham and Tim Jernigan to provide the bulk of the push. Still, the Birds are deeper in the trenches, and perhaps superior overall, measuring up better both against the run (70.8 yards per game to 88.0) and in sacks (10 to 9).

Slight edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The Eagles are certainly susceptible to the big play, especially through the air. It might make sense to play more two-deep safety and keep Malcolm Jenkins back deep against a speedy receiving corps, granted that will take away from what makes him special. Unfortunately, the secondary just doesn’t have anybody like Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals’ shutdown cover man who can take the opponent’s best receiver out of the game. The rest of Arizona’s cornerbacks aren’t so great, but you don’t see the unit surrendering 80-yard touchdowns on a weekly basis, either.

Slight edge: Cardinals

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Cardinals have absolutely no return game to speak of, and kicker Phil Dawson has been less than stellar from mid-range. Even without Sproles, the Eagles’ return units are dangerous, and Jake Elliott is just beginning to find his groove, nailing four field goals from long distance last week. The punters are comparable, but the Eagles’ coverage teams are also superior.

Edge: Eagles

COACHING

Doug Pederson might be starting to win some people over in Philly, but he still has a long way to go to have a resume like Bruce Arians. Arians was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2012 and ’14 and picked up two Super Bowl rings as an assistant. His career is winding down, but it’s been a tremendous run, even speaking specifically for his time with the Cardinals. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is an easy choice over the relatively inexperienced James Bettcher on the opposing sideline, yet Arians still gets the nod.

Very slight edge: Cardinals

OVERALL

At full health, these two teams might stack up pretty close. Of course, the NFL is a war of attrition, where nobody is ever at full health, and in this case, the Cardinals are more shorthanded. The offense is missing one of the best players in the entire league and multiple offensive linemen, and an aging quarterback simply can’t compensate. Add that Arizona has to travel, and an Eagles squad that’s playing at the level we’ve seen through four weeks should be able to dispatch of a weakened and vulnerable opponent.

Edge: Eagles

A look at Sixers' championship odds after round 1 win over Heat

A look at Sixers' championship odds after round 1 win over Heat

The Philadelphia 76ers and their fans absolutely relished the round 1 series victory over the Miami Heat. But enjoy it for a day or so and then it's time to look ahead.

The Sixers' round 2 opponent has yet to be determined. If the Celtics defeat the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, the Sixers would play in Boston on Saturday night at 8:00 pm to kick off the second round. If the Bucks keep the series alive tomorrow, the Sixers' first game of round 2 is TBD.

As JJ Redick said last night, this team has kept achieving its goals and setting new ones. 

"This group won 10 games two years ago, 28 games last year, we were 25-25 with 5 games to go before the All-Star break, so this is new to us as a group," Redick said. "The interesting thing that has happened is we've changed our goals now like four times. It was make the playoffs, it was win 50 games, it was home-court [advantage], then it was third seed. We don't feel any sense of complacency. This group is still hungry. We want more."

So how about an NBA title... this season? Of remarkable note: the Sixers opened up the season at +15000 to win the NBA championship and are now +850. That's wild.

Oddsmakers have the Sixers as the third-favorite, as of this morning, to win the 2018 NBA championship behind the Golden State Warriors (+105) and Houston Rockets (+160), according to both Bovada. Cleveland (+1000) and Toronto (+1100) aren't super far behind.

As for the Sixers' odds to win the East? How about a slight favorite, according to VegasInsider. Philly (8/5) is just a tiny bit ahead of Toronto (17/10) with Cleveland (3/1) being the only other team with a shot better than 20/1.

"We've got more to do," Brett Brown said last night.

An Eagles draft with less despair than usual

ap-nfl-draft-dallas.jpg
AP

An Eagles draft with less despair than usual

The NFL Draft is an important time for every team, every year. There’s also no denying it’s less consequential for the Eagles in 2018 than any other point in franchise history – or at least feels that way.

That’s obviously not an attitude the front office was taking while preparing for this draft, nor is it the approach decision makers will use when they’re on the clock. There’s always room for improvement, and the Eagles perpetually have one eye on the future.

But outside the secret underground bunkers deep beneath the NovaCare Complex where the Eagles’ draft boards are set, not everybody views this year’s class with the same sense of urgency.

How can you? The Eagles currently own just one pick in the first three rounds, which means they will largely be bystanders during the first and second rounds of the draft. And the one selection they are schedule to make is the 32nd and final pick in the first round, greatly reducing the odds it will be an impact player.

Trades are inevitable as the Eagles try to add more choices – that perhaps more than the names of the players chosen might be the main source of intrigue. Still, there’s only so much the club can hope to accomplish with such limited firepower to start with.

There aren’t many areas a rookie would be expected to come in and produce immediately on this squad, anyway. I’m not sure if you heard, but the Eagles just won the Super Bowl and are set to return starters or regular contributors at every position.

Even from the simple standpoint the Eagles are finally world champions, the pressure is off compared to previous years.

None of which is intended to imply the draft isn’t of immense value to the Eagles since they lack picks, or holes, or because the fanbase is temporarily placated. Clearly, it would be a huge help if the front office hits on No. 32, or any of their five picks between rounds four through seven.

The Eagles can’t possibly depend on that happening, either. The prospects are already a lot more hit or miss by the end of the first round, after you’ve waited four hours. By the fourth, only the true draftniks or serious college football fans will recognize many of the names.

And that’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. For the first time since NFL draft coverage became a thing, there’s no need to obsess or despair over what the Eagles are going to do.

Partly because the Eagles can’t do much – partly because they’ve already done what they needed to do.