Cardinals, Eagles meet fighting for playoff spots
Sunday’s game between the visiting Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals will feature two former Oklahoma quarterbacks who were in the Heisman Trophy conversation and two teams competing for their playoff lives.
Second-year quarterback Kyler Murray plays host to rookie Jalen Hurts at Glendale, Ariz.
Hurts, who finished second in the Heisman vote after last season, replaced the struggling Carson Wentz last week and led the Eagles to a pivotal 24-21 win against the New Orleans Saints.
Philadelphia (4-8-1) is only one game back in the loss column behind NFC East leader Washington (6-7) with three weeks remaining.
In the upset of the Saints, Hurts became the first quarterback in the past 70 years to throw for 150 yards with a passing touchdown and rush for 100 yards in his first career start.
He finished 17 for 30 for 167 yards with a touchdown. He also had 18 carries for 106 yards with a fumble, his lone turnover of the day.
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson has not confirmed that Hurts will start against the Cardinals.
“I thought overall there were some good things and kind of gave us a spark (against the Saints),” Pederson said. “This win is not about one guy. This win is about this team and how resilient this team is. … He, obviously, was a part of the win, but my hat’s off to a lot of guys in this football game.”
Murray won the Heisman at Oklahoma in 2018 and was the top pick of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals before last season. Now, in his second season in the NFL, he has the Cardinals (7-6) on the brink of the playoffs. They are presently the seventh seed in the NFC playoff picture.
Arizona’s defense and Murray’s dual threat as a running quarterback were the difference in last week’s 26-7 win at the New York Giants. The defense produced eight sacks in the win, which snapped the Cardinals’ three-game losing streak.
Murray ran 13 times for 47 yards. The Cardinals are 7-1 this season when Murray runs at least 10 times. He threw for 244 yards and a touchdown without an interception on 24-for-35 passing.
“The vibe was different, more free, everybody just relaxed and having fun, honestly, not putting any pressure on anybody,” Murray said of the victory. “We just came out and played. It’s fun when you’re winning. I think that’s what it comes down to.”
A significant reason why Arizona is in position for the playoffs is the Murray-to-DeAndre Hopkins connection. Hopkins has 94 receptions for 1,155 yards and five touchdowns.
The season-ending injury suffered by Philadelphia right tackle Jack Driscoll in last week’s game against New Orleans means the Eagles will set an NFL record with its 13th different offensive-line configuration on Sunday.
Matt Pryor will return to the starting lineup in place of Driscoll, who suffered an MCL knee injury against the Saints.
Pryor, who has started seven games this season at both guard and tackle, has allowed four sacks and 23 quarterback pressures in 342 pass-blocking opportunities, according to Pro Football Focus.
Against Arizona, he will compete against linebacker Haason Reddick, who has 10 sacks, including five last week against the Giants.
“He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s agile, he can bend,” Pederson said of Reddick. “Obviously, he had a heck of a game the other day. Pryor’s got to get in here and study him. I expect him to be prepared.”
The Eagles are also beat up in the secondary. The team put safety Rodney McLeod on injured reserve Wednesday. Pederson said cornerback Avonte Maddox (knee) is going to miss some time. CB Darius Slay (concussion) missed Wednesday’s practice and defensive tackle Malik Johnson (concussion) was limited.
For the Cardinals, DL Jordan Phillips (hamstring) was a non-participant Wednesday, joining LB De’Vondre Campbell (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring) and S Jalen Thompson (ankle).
–Field Level Media