The real deal: Eagles or Cardinals?

US Presswire

The Cardinals and Eagles are both 2-0 and face off on Sunday. Which team is the real deal?This is the second installment of a weekly NFL discussion that takes a closer look at one of the week’s hot topics. Today’s discussion centers around which 2-0 team is the real deal this season, the Philadelphia Eagles or Arizona Cardinals. The Eagles and Cardinals will face each other on Sunday afternoon at 4:05 ET.

The Cardinals are 9-2 in their last 11 games dating to last season. In those 11 games they have given up just 10 passing touchdowns, and they beat Tony Romo, Tom Brady and Michael Vick in that stretch.

Looking back at last season’s matchup, the Cardinals held Vick to a 47 completion percentage and just 128 yards. They picked him off twice and did not yield a passing touchdown. Vick registered a 24.5 QBR in that game, his second-worst in the last two seasons.

Through two weeks the Cardinals have been among the best defenses in the league when committing extra pass rushers, allowing under 40 percent of passes to be completed when sending five or more.

Cardinals’ Pass Defense
Sending 5+ Rushers

Vick’s 47.8 completion rate against added pressure is the fourth-worst among 33 quarterbacks with at least five such attempts.

The Eagles have turned the ball over nine times this year, the most for a 2-0 team since the 1983 Rams, while the Cardinals have just four turnovers.

One aspect often looked over is special teams. In 2012 the Cardinals are tied for fifth in the NFL with a 6.9 Special Teams EPA (total expected points by special teams); the Eagles are 31st in that category. Patrick Peterson leads the league with four punt return touchdowns since the start of last season.

-- Adam Grigely

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Great points, Adam. The Cardinals’ defense certainly had Vick’s number in that 2011 matchup. However, Sunday’s game has a chance to be completely different with the speedy DeSean Jackson active this time. Big plays are something Jackson and the Eagles excel at while the Cardinals’ offense is anything but potent.

More than a third of the Cardinals’ rushing yards and their two longest rushes in 2012 have come from non-running backs. The Cardinals had just seven runs of 20 yards or more in 2011 (tied for 24th-fewest), and have zero this year. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had twice as many big plays of his own on the ground last year, and has two already in 2012.

The same story can be told in the passing game. The Cardinals are one of six teams without a pass play of 30 or more yards this season while Vick and the Eagles already have two from Jackson and another from Jeremy Maclin.

Lowest Total QBR Allowed

The big-play ability certainly favors the loaded Eagles offense and the Philly defense should also be more than capable of keeping Kolb or Skelton in check.

The Eagles have allowed a QBR of 6.7 this season, second-best in the league, and when combining 2011 and 2012 data, the Eagles have the best pass defense in the NFL by a decent margin.

The Eagles’ potent offense and shut-down pass defense will make it very difficult for the Cardinals to pull off two upsets in a row.

-- Marty Callinan