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.

Temple cracks Top 25 in final CFP rankings, will play in Military Bowl

ap-temple.jpg
The Associated Press

Temple cracks Top 25 in final CFP rankings, will play in Military Bowl

After winning its first American Athletic Conference championship Saturday, Temple learned its postseason fate Sunday and it does not involve a New Year's Six bowl game.

The Owls will play Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Maryland. Temple also finished No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and No. 23 in the AP poll.

At 10-3, Temple has its first back-to-back 10-win season in program history. It's also the first time the Owls have been ranked in consecutive seasons. Head coach Matt Rhule now has 28 wins as Temple's head coach, tying him with Bruce Arians' for the sixth-most in school history.

Wake Forest finished the season 6-6 and on a three-game losing streak, but two of those three loses came to No. 2 Clemson and No. 13 Louisville. The Deamon Deacons have lost five of their last six games.

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers (13-10-3) at Predators (11-8-4)
6 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

The Flyers have won a season-high four games in a row. They'll try to make it five Sunday night when they visit the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena for the second game of a back-to-back set.

Let's take a look at five things you need to know.

1. Streaking like 2014?
Not only do the Flyers have a chance to extend their season-best winning streak, but they're also looking to win their most consecutive games since March 15-22, 2014, when they also won five straight.

The Flyers have put up strong showings in the back ends of back-to-backs, going 4-1-1 thus far.

“You just have to have the work ethic night in and night out," Steve Mason said Saturday after the Flyers' 3-1 win over the Blackhawks. "And, I think we were struggling to find that. There are games when we were swarming and giving teams no other option, and other nights we were chasing the puck.

"We have another tough test going to Nashville to play. So, we’re going to have to follow up with another great effort.” 

2. A Provorov encore?
Ivan Provorov's confidence has to be at his highest of the season.

In Saturday's win, the 19-year-old blueliner scored two goals in a 31-second span to double his goal total through the first 25 games.

Provorov said he thinks defense first, but the offensive production is a good sign.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster."

3. Predators finding stride
After losing eight of their first 11 games, Peter Laviolette's Predators have gotten on track, going 8-3-1 since.

Nashville ranks in the top half of the league in goals per game (3.00 — tied for fifth), goals against per game (2.61 — 15th), power-play percentage (22.6 — sixth) and penalty-kill percentage (84.5 — 10th).

Last time out, the Predators blew a 4-1 lead in the third period for a 5-4 overtime loss to the Devils on Saturday, so they should be extra focused.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: On Saturday, Brayden Schenn scored just his second goal in his past 18 games. Schenn can be streaky so maybe he feeds off that goal. He's also a career plus-4 against the Predators, with two goals and three assists in eight games.

Predators: Let's go P.K. Subban, who isn't exactly a favorite among Flyers fans. He's off to a nice start in his first season in Nashville with six goals and 10 assists, and eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last eight games.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 7-7-5 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 20 career games against the Predators.

• Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne is 3-2-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Claude Giroux is four assists away from passing Rick MacLeish (369) and Eric Lindros (369) for fifth on the Flyers’ all-time list.