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

Darren Sproles plans to retire after 2018 season

USA Today Images

Darren Sproles plans to retire after 2018 season

The 2018 season will be the final one for Darren Sproles.

The Eagles' running back announced in a blog post Sunday that he plans to play just "one more year." In fact, Sproles wrote that he had originally planned for 2017 to be his final season in the NFL, but that changed after suffering a season-ending torn ACL and broken arm against the Giants in Week 3. 

"An injury is different; It’s something you don’t have any control over but I feel like I left a lot out there, and I couldn’t let my career end like that," Sproles wrote.

"Coming back from any injury is tough—especially a knee injury for a running back. I wondered if I was going to come back the same, if I would still have my quickness. That’s the main thing because I don’t want to go out there and start getting smacked. Once I started rehabbing and running again I could tell I was good and ready for one more healthy year."

The 35-year-old agreed to terms on a one-year deal to return to the Eagles back in April. This coming season, he will be part of a crowded Eagles backfield that's headlined by Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement.

Over four seasons with the Birds, Sproles has compiled 2,420 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. He's also been a weapon on special teams, posting a 12.5 yards per return average and four touchdowns. Acquired in a trade from the Saints in 2014, Sproles has made the Pro Bowl three times as an Eagle and was named to Second Team All-Pro as a returner in his first season in Philly.

"I’m excited to come back and I am even more excited to come back to the defending Super Bowl champion, Eagles," Sproles wrote. "We have something special here with the team, the fans, and the city. We made history bringing the first Lombardi trophy to Philly and now we want to go back-to-back."

In the post, Sproles noted that he has his sights set on getting into the top five of the all-time leaders in all-purpose yards. Sproles currently sits eighth all-time with 19,155 yards. He should pass Steve Smith (19,180) and Marshall Faulk (19,190) with ease, but will have to leap Tim Brown (19,682) to get into the top five. The 13-year veteran wrote that it "will probably take until about mid-season (maybe a little longer)" to catch Brown.

The other players in the top five? Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton and Emmit Smith. Pretty good company.

Though, records weren't the thing that ultimately convinced Sproles to push his retirement back one more season.

"But I don’t do it for the records," Sproles wrote. "Yeah, it would be an honor to be mentioned in the same conversation as those guys—but that’s not what’s important. I love this game. I love what I do. When my daughter Devyn looked me in the eye and told me I have to play one more year—well, that was it."

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Eagles Mailbag: Trading Nick Foles; will Carson Wentz be ready?

Eagles Mailbag: Trading Nick Foles; will Carson Wentz be ready?

Training camp starts next week!

After a shorter-than-usual offseason, the Eagles will try to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champs in over a decade. 

We answered half of your questions yesterday (see story). The rest today: 

To me, this has always been the most likely scenario if Nick Foles were to ever get traded for a few reasons. The first is that by training camp, the Eagles will have a much better idea of whether or not Carson Wentz is ready to play. They can decide to either keep the insurance policy or trade it away. And you’re right, desperation will raise Foles’ price. 

I remember asking Howie Roseman about this exact possibility back in March. 

“I’d say that’s a possibility of anyone on our team,” Roseman said. “We’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the Eagles. I don’t want to make this about just Nick, but anything that can make us better at any time in the year, we have to look at.”

I think it would have to be a first-rounder. The Eagles already didn’t trade Foles for an early second-rounder this year and if Sam Bradford was worth a first-rounder, the Super Bowl MVP damn-well better be. Now, it’s rare to have a Teddy Bridgewater-type situation arise, but if it does, the Eagles will be waiting by their phones.  

(And side note: I don’t think Foles’ restructured contract changes anything.) 

My gut is that he’s ready for Week 1, but I don’t know. On one hand, it’s a really serious injury. On the other, I was incredibly impressed by how much he was able to do in the spring and how well he did it. 

The one thing I know is this: It won’t be a decision. Either Wentz is cleared and he plays or he isn’t cleared and he doesn’t. There can’t be any thought to resting him if he’s cleared to play. These games are too important and they’re going to need him in every one. 

The Rams improved their roster and should be one of the favorites to win the NFC. The Rams already had a quarterback and some key pieces around him and then they won the offseason. 

The brought in Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Now, putting a bunch of great players together isn’t enough — remember the Dream Team — but it’s a good start. And the Rams certainly added a lot of talent. 

This is a fair question after Nigel Bradham’s suspension, but the good news for the Eagles is that Bradham’s suspension is just one game. The Eagles should have had more depth but Paul Worrilow went down for the season in the spring on the same day they cut Mychal Kendricks. That leaves the Eagles with a depth problem. 

I think they’ll try to get a better sense of what depth they have during the first week or two of training camp. Let’s see what they have in Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson, Joe Walker and LaRoy Reynolds. But I’d imagine the Eagles at least have a couple veteran names in mind. Remember, they did add Dannell Ellerbe late last season and I wouldn’t be surprised if they still have a short list of guys who would make sense. 

Hot dogs. Please don’t ask me if they’re a sandwich. 

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