Cardinals vs. Eagles 2013 game preview: Birds battle for playoffs

In one of the most important games this weekend, Arizona and Philadelphia will fight to improve their postseason hopes.

The Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles are both in the midst of comeback seasons, and will clash on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

At 7-4, Arizona is currently the No. 7 team in the NFC by virtue of tiebreakers, sitting behind the San Francisco 49ers for the sixth and final playoff seed. The Cardinals are winners of four consecutive games, including last week's dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts. Few teams in the NFL are hotter than Arizona, which has kept opponents at or under 14 points in three of those wins.

The 6-5 Eagles are also right on the cusp of making the playoffs. The probability of being a wild card team is not great, but the division is another story. Philadelphia is tied with the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East, but currently loses the tiebreak after being defeated by Dallas at home earlier this month.

Meet the Cardinals

In a league that is more quarterback-driven then ever before, it is amazing the Cardinals are where they are with Carson Palmer. Frankly, Palmer has been bad throughout most of the season, although he probably looks like Joe Montana to Arizona fans after having to watch Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and John Skelton the last few years.

Palmer has thrown for 2,887 yards and 16 touchdowns against 15 interceptions and five fumbles. The former No. 1 overall pick has been better in his last two contests, though, throwing for over 300 yards in each and completing better than 70 percent of his passes. Luckily for Palmer, he has two excellent receivers in Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald to work with. The duo has combined for 11 touchdowns and over 1,300 receiving yards.

Defensively, the Cardinals are stout against the run, ranking second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game at just over 81. John Abraham has also proven to be one of the best free-agent pickups in the league, amassing seven sacks. The secondary is very talented with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu patrolling, giving Arizona some of the best backfield speed and instincts in the game.

Meet the Eagles

At the beginning of the season, the story was about Michael Vick within Chip Kelly's system. Now, it's about Nick Foles turning into one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Foles has yet to throw an interception this year and already has 16 touchdowns to his credit. The former Arizona star is lighting up defenses, forcing Kelly to make him the starter for the remainder of the season.

LeSean McCoy is still the lynchpin of the offense, and his numbers prove it. The running back has a league-leading 1,009 rushing yards on 4.7 yards per carry to go along with 34 receptions for 399 yards. McCoy is third on the team in catches behind DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, who each have seven touchdowns. Jackson is easily having the best season of his career with 985 receiving yards and 19 plays of 20+ yards.

The fly in Philadelphia's ointment, however, is its defense. The unit has nobody with over four sacks and ranks dead last against the pass, giving up over 300 yards per game. The Eagles are not much better against the run, allowing 117.8 yards on the ground per game, 21st in the NFL.

Local take: Arizona

Michael Oliver of Revenge Of The Birds talks about the different team that shows up at home:

Finally, we learned that the Cardinals are a truly dominant home team in the NFL. Statement wins against three current play-off teams in Indianapolis, Carolina and Detroit, the Cards are 5-1 at home, with the only loss coming at the hands of Seattle. They are in that bracket with Seattle, Denver, New England as the truly dominant home teams. They are a different team at home. University of Phoenix Stadium is one of the toughest places to visit in the NFL.

Local take: Philadelphia

Over at Bleeding Green Nation, Brandon Lee Gowton talks about Foles and his future:

The Eagles have five regular season games remaining in their 2013 schedule. Foles now faces a big test in front of him. It's up to him to help lead this team to the playoffs. The way Foles plays the rest of this year could have a significant impact on his future with the team moving forward.

Follow the fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Revenge Of The Birds and Bleeding Green Nation, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@revengeofbirds

@BleedingGreen

Prediction

This is a huge game for both sides. Arizona needs to come across the country and play a confident Eagles team coming off a bye week, which is no easy task. Despite its issues at home over the last few years, Philadelphia will get a lift from this crowd who knows what is at stake. Still though, give me the better defense. The Cardinals are coming together at the right time and are unquestionably equipped with more talent on the most important side of the ball.

Pick: Arizona 27, Philadelphia 24

Odds

Philadelphia is favored by three points over the Cardinals at home with an over/under of 48.5, per Oddsshark.com.

Next week

The Eagles will play host to the Detroit Lions while Arizona is home against the St. Louis Rams.

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