Eagles vs Cardinals: 5 Key Matchups to Watch

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Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts pushes off New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak but it was a sloppy victory, one that didn’t ease the gloom and doom hovering over the building. And it didn’t cause a spike in travel plans for fans looking to fly to Las Vegas for a certain game in early February.

Nevertheless, a win is a win is a win. The Eagles now get a home date against the Arizona Cardinals in what should be a homecoming of sorts for Jonathan Gannon — the one-time defensive coordinator whose enervated actions may have contributed to a Super Bowl loss. Predictably, head coach Nick Sirianni downplayed any validity to that narrative.

“I have a great deal of respect for Jonathan and the coach that he is and the person that he is. I’m looking forward to going against him this weekend,” Sirianni told reporters.

“I know the players — you’ll have to ask them — but I know the players that I’ve talked to feel the same way. Obviously, we didn’t finish the job last year, which all of us have the taste in our mouth of like, ‘dang, wish we had finished the job,’ but there were still some special moments, a lot of special moments. I think we can all agree there were a lot of special moments last year, and also in 2021, and Jonathan Gannon was a big part of that.”

5 Key Matchups to Watch: Eagles vs. Cardinals

Jonathan Gannon vs. Eagles Fans

Whatever Nick Sirianni wants to put on record is inconsequential. The fans in Philly hate Jonathan Gannon with an unbridled passion, like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV levels. Don’t be surprised if the decibel levels at the Linc set a new noise record on Sunday. That’s a given. But how personal will fans get with the signs and chants? It’s going to be deafening when Gannon emerges from the tunnel. Home-field advantage at its finest.

TE Trey McBride vs. [Insert Eagles Player Here]

The Eagles have struggled against tight ends (or any player who comes over the middle, really) so this could be a huge area for Arizona to exploit. McBride — Zach Ertz’s replacement — is quietly approaching a 1,000-yard season and comes in two weeks removed from making 10 catches for 102 yards on San Francisco. Who covers him? It could be Avonte Maddox if he’s cleared to go. Or it could be Ben VanSumeren if Nicholas Morrow and Zach Cunningham don’t play. Or, maybe, they get extra creative and throw Nolan Smith out there.

RT Paris Johnson vs. LB Haason Reddick

The “Weapon of Mass Destruction” is one of the most feared pass rushers in football. He’s a walking momentum swing, and a guy capable of a strip-sack on every snap, so the Cardinals are bound to throw different looks at him. Johnson, who went No. 6 overall in the 2023 draft, will get the first crack at stopping Reddick. Good luck.

Eagles jalen carter
Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter, left, runs with the ball while scoring on a fumble recovery as teammate Haason Reddick (7) gestures and Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Terence Steele (78) chases him during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

LB Owen Pappoe vs. RB D’Andre Swift

The Cardinals will need a small army to contain Swift as he looks to build on last week’s 92-yard effort and hit 1,000 yards for the year. He enters the game stuck on 988 yards. Pappoe, a fifth-round pick out of Auburn, will make his second straight start at inside linebacker after seeing a season-high 35 snaps in Week 16. The rookie stayed in the game on running downs and Arizona is hoping that his insane speed — 4.39 seconds in the 40 — can help fix the NFL’s worst-ranked run defense, one that has surrendered 2,205 rushing yards.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift scores against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

QB Jalen Hurts vs. S Budda Baker

The quarterback has struggled with turnovers through 15 games, including a career-high 13 interceptions. They haven’t all been his fault but it’s something he needs to clean up. Baker, a standout safety who once flirted with joining the Eagles, has watched the tape on Hurts and diagnosed how to flummox him. The key is keeping him in the pocket: “Outside the pocket is where he’s very accurate,” Baker said of Hurts. “He can throw across the body strong enough and break tackles and create explosive plays in the run game as well.”

AP Photo/Matt Slocum