Eagles Looking to Avoid Letdown Game in Arizona

Eagles Looking to Avoid Letdown Game in Arizona

I know a lot of people are picking the Eagles today, and by association, many of them disrespecting the Arizona Cardinals. This is a dangerous game for the Birds though, and not just because the Cards upended New England last week, or because they've won nine of their last 11 games going back to last November.

This has some of the makings of a letdown game for Philadelphia -- coming off of a huge victory over a potential Super Bowl contender in the home opener, playing in a dome two time zones away, and looking ahead to next week's primetime battle against the rival New York Giants.

Obviously Arizona is a bit limited offensively, although they do possess a dangerous secret weapon in Larry Fitzgerald, but the defense is for real, and there are simply too many game-changing plays made by special teams for it to be mere coincidence. As long as they can hang in there until the fourth quarter, it's a mix that has the potential to swing the momentum on any given snap.

The Eagles are no slouches either, and certainly have all the pieces in place that they might beat the Cardinals soundly. Just saying, it's not necessarily going to be easy, and there aren't many reasons to believe it will be. If this is going to be a walk, the Eagles are going to have to execute in a manner they haven't yet this year. Thus the keys to this contest are fairly simple.

Pressure Kevin Kolb

Kevin Kolb disputes the notion that he plays scared, but there are three simple facts he can't ignore:

1. Arizona's offensive line is not good.
2. Philly's defensive line is great.
3. Any quarterback will get rattled under constant pressure.

Kolb is no different, and that's speaking from first-hand knowledge of the way he operates. To counter, the Cardinals receivers will run a lot of routes that develop quickly, but if the back seven can keep a lid on the short and intermediate stuff, the Eagles front should be able get Kolb's feet moving. That's when he starts pulling out early and running for his life.

The O-line is pretty porous all around, but Trent Cole will be working against D'Anthony Batiste, Levi Brown's replacement at left tackle. Cole already has two strip sacks in two games this season (one negated by a penalty), so this would appear to have big day written all over it.

Simplify the Offensive Game Plan

Jeremy Maclin is out, as are King Dunlap and Jason Kelce on the offensive line. That means less firepower in the passing game, and a new left tackle and center going against a strong defensive front that will create confusion by blitzing.

The last thing the Eagles can have happen is Michael Vick dropping back three out of four times in an attempt to press the Cardinals secondary vertically similar to what they did in Cleveland. There's no telling what kind of pressure the quarterback will be under as Arizona uses different packages to cross up the protection calls and get free rushers after Vick.

Second, the Eagles can't afford to turn the ball over four or five times again this week. The Cardinals have become an extremely opportunistic team, thriving and almost relying on getting extra chances off of their opposition's giveaways. It's bad enough they'll probably create an advantage for themselves with a special teams play at some point, but hand them extra chances will only set you up for failure.

Control the ball, and let the big plays take care of themselves. Settle for a punt when necessary, and make the Cardinals offense drive the length of the field.

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June.

The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday.

Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while matching his career best with five blocks -- and had another dustup with King James in the process.

James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas (see full recap).

Thomas explodes for 17 in fourth quarter to lift Celtics over Hornets
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas' 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He's been putting up big final quarters of late -- scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight -- all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period (see full recap).

Wizards remain hot with win over Trail Blazers
WASHINGTON  -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon.

The Wizards, who rely less on the 3-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13 of 23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The 3-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8 of 26 on 3-point attempts.

After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11 of 29 from the floor.

The Wizards have won four of their last five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).