Eagles TE Zach Ertz burned the Cards’ Honey Badger Mathieu in 2013.
By Annie Ross
It may come as news to radio dopes like Michael Barkann, but the Eagles are a real 5-1 team.
Not a soft 5-1.
Not a squishy 5-1.
The Eagles are for real, and their bye week has helped them heal their wounds, and soon they will be welcoming back to to O-line center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis, who have been out with injuries.
Coming out of the break, the Eagles have a key four-game stretch lined up, with three of the four games coming against teams leading or tied for first in their respective divisions. Three of the games are also on the road. In short, it’ll be quite the test for what appears to be an elite Eagles squad. Here’s what to expect for these four, which may make or break the Eagles’ season:
At Arizona Cardinals — Oct. 26
Offense: 19th in PPG (23.2), 28th in YDS/G (307.8)
Defense: 10th in PA (20.2), 25th in YDS Allowed/G (384.8)
Arizona is sitting pretty atop the NFC West at 4-1, despite the loss of quarterback Carson Palmer for three games. The Cardinals have suffered injuries to defensive end Darnell Dockett, who tore his ACL before the season started, and linebacker John Abraham, who left the team because of concussion-related problems. Palmer returned in Week 6 and played well, throwing for two touchdowns in a 30-20 victory over Washington. In two games this year, Palmer has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 554 yards and four touchdowns without throwing an interception. The Cardinals’ defense has stepped up to the plate against impressive offenses, including limiting the San Diego Chargers’ fifth-ranked offense to just 17 points in Week 1.
At Houston Texans — Nov. 2
Offense: 21st in PPG (22.0), 19th in YDS/G (337.0)
Defense: 4th in PA (20.0), 27th in YDS Allowed/G (397.2)
After a surprisingly dismal 2013, the Texans have risen from the ashes and already won more games this year (3) than they did all of last year (2). Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a pleasant surprise for Houston fans, playing extremely serviceable football, completing 65 percent of his passes for six touchdowns. The Texans nearly knocked off division-rival Indianapolis in Week 6, losing by five points. The Eagles rank second in the league in points scored only to those Colts, but the Texans’ defense might have something to say about that. Houston is allowing just 20 points per game, the fourth-best marker in the league, while the Eagles enter the bye week averaging 30.5 points per contest. This game will be a homecoming for the former Texans
Carolina Panthers — Nov. 10
Offense: T-17th in PPG (23.5), 18th in YDS/G (343.8)
Defense: 24th in PA (26.2), 26th in YDS Allowed/G (392.5)
Carolina is sitting on top of the NFC South despite a rapidly regressing defense, and the Panthers are a tale of two teams when it comes to both facets of offense. In terms of throwing, they’ve had a great year both executing and defending the pass. Quarterback Cam Newton has thrown seven touchdowns to just two interceptions in five games this year and has the fourth-best interception percentage in the league. Their secondary has also pulled down seven interceptions this season, the sixth-best mark in the league through Week 6. On the ground, though, the Panthers are vulnerable. They have the 27th-best run game in the league, averaging just 86.8 yards per game, while allowing the 5th-most rushing yards per game.
At Green Bay Packers — Nov. 16
Offense: T-8th in PPG (26.8), 26th in YDS/G (319.2)
Defense: 12th in PA (21.7), 19th in YDS Allowed/G (368.0)
The Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. After beginning the season 1-2 and looking shaky at best, Green Bay has found its feet and Aaron Rodgers has found one heck of a rhythm. The perennial Pro Bowl quarterback is on a tear, completing 64.6 percent of his passes, averaging 237 yards per game and throwing 15 touchdowns to just one interception through six games. He’s piloted the offense to three straight impressive victories, averaging 35.6 points per game over that span. The Green Bay defense still needs work, but they have the offense to stay with anybody in the league: wide receiver Jordy Nelson is averaging over 100 receiving yards per game and has five scores in six games this year.