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Game of the Week: Cardinals at Eagles
A Week 13 matchup between Arizona and Philadelphia hardly stood out on the 2013 NFL schedule this offseason. The Cardinals had lost 11 of their last 12 ballgames last year, while Philadelphia, despite excitement over the arrival of head coach Chip Kelly, was envisioned to begin a rebuilding process this fall. If this encounter would have implications, it would be of draft order rather than the playoff variety.
Yet with Thanksgiving upon us, there's postseason aspirations in both the City of Brotherly Love and the desert of the Grand Canyon State. This tilt between two upstart rosters serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
Since All-Pro linebacker Daryl Washington's return from a substance-abuse suspension, the Cardinals defense has stonewalled their opponents, allowing 19.1 points in the past seven games. This resistance has been particularly stout against the rush, as Arizona is giving up a conference-low 81.3 yards per outing. Assisting Washington in this armament have been Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and John Abraham. Such pressure has bestowed the secondary to attack with a feast-or-famine approach, evidenced by the unit's 15 interceptions on the year (second only to Seattle in the NFC). This group is led by playmakers Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Combined, the defense's admission of 317.1 yards per contest is seventh-best in the NFL.
Arizona's suffocating of adversaries has given more than enough breathing room for Carson Palmer and company. In his third stop in four years, the former Pro Bowler has been far from formidable, owning more turnovers (17) than touchdowns (16). However, given the Cardinals dealt with the putridness of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer last season, Palmer has instilled a sense of continuity on the offense. Moreover, the emergence of second-year wideout Michael Floyd has finally given Arizona a complement to Larry Fitzgerald in the receiving arena. If Andre Ellington continues to develop in the rushing game, watch out.
Offense has not been a problem for the Eagles, with Kelly's up-tempo attack ranking fourth in total yards at a 412.4 mark. While many perceive this strategy to be facilitated by the air, in truth it's the endeavors on the soil that act as catalyst. Directed by LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia is averaging 150.6 rushing yards per game, second-best in the NFL.
Alas, as good as McCoy has been, it's the stylings of Nick Foles that have propelled the Eagles to three straight victories. The second-year arm out of Arizona has a whopping 17 scores versus one turnover in his abbreviated appearances in 2013, and his accuracy and mobility have proved perfect for Philly's scheme. With Foles at the helm, the Eagles have one of the more dynamic assaults in the NFC.
Nevertheless, for the Eagles to capture the NFC East, the collective effort of the defense will need to improve. Philadelphia is conceding nearly 418 total yards per game, second-worst in the NFL. The D has been especially generous to opposing field generals, yielding a league-high 300 yards per contest. Though the Eagles don't need to turn into the '85 Bears, they will need to alleviate some of these issues if they plan on making noise in January.
So who emerges victorious from this NFC battle? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com football simulation engine, the Eagles come out on top 50.8 percent of the time by an average margin of 23-22. For the rest of this week's scores, check below:
Please note: The Packers-Lions, Raiders-Cowboys, Rams-49ers, Titans-Colts, Broncos-Chiefs, Bears-Vikings and Giants-Redskins games were resimulated on 11/27 to account for injuries and roster updates.
NFL Week 13
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||27.2||18||Boxscore|
|@ Carolina Panthers||72.8||26||Simulate Game|
|@ Cleveland Browns||68.5||23||Simulate Game|
|Green Bay Packers||37.8||24||Boxscore|
|@ Detroit Lions||62.2||28||Simulate Game|
|@ Buffalo Bills||60.9||28||Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||41.3||17||Boxscore|
|@ San Francisco 49ers||58.7||18||Simulate Game|
|@ Dallas Cowboys||58.7||23||Simulate Game|
|New Orleans Saints||45.2||20||Boxscore|
|@ Seattle Seahawks||54.8||21||Simulate Game|
|@ Baltimore Ravens||53.9||24||Simulate Game|
|@ New York Jets||53.5||19||Simulate Game|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||53.3||21||Simulate Game|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||50.8||23||Simulate Game|
|@ San Diego Chargers||48.2||23||Simulate Game|
|New York Giants||54.6||26||Boxscore|
|@ Washington Redskins||45.4||24||Simulate Game|
|@ Kansas City Chiefs||44.3||21||Simulate Game|
|@ Minnesota Vikings||43.4||22||Simulate Game|
|New England Patriots||77.7||27||Boxscore|
|@ Houston Texans||22.3||17||Simulate Game|
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