Our outstanding ESPN Stats & Information blog has a new weekly feature called "The real deal," in which they examine both sides of one of the week's games or issues. This week, they are debating the matchup of two of the NFC's four 2-0 teams -- the Philadelphia Eagles' game in Arizona against the Cardinals. Adam Grigely points out that the Cardinals are 9-2 in their past 11 games including a game last year against the Eagles. You'll remember that game as the one for which Andy Reid suspended DeSean Jackson for missing a team meeting and Michael Vick broke his ribs. One of many strong contenders for the rock-bottom game of the Eagles' 2011 season:
Looking back at last season’s matchup, the Cardinals held Vick to a 47 completion percentage and just 128 yards. They picked him off twice and did not yield a passing touchdown. Vick registered a 24.5 QBR in that game, his second-worst in the last two seasons.
All good, solid, statistical points, but it's also possible that the thing the Cardinals did that most limited Vick in that game was break his ribs early. He clearly was not himself as the game went along, and after it was over we learned that he had been playing hurt. He missed the following three games because of the injury. A healthy Vick, with Jackson at his disposal, may well have played quite differently. And Marty Callinan points out that the big-play ability of guys like Vick and Jackson is something the Cardinals don't have on their side:
More than a third of the Cardinals’ rushing yards and their two longest rushes in 2012 have come from non-running backs. The Cardinals had just seven runs of 20 yards or more in 2011 (tied for 24th-fewest), and have zero this year. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had twice as many big plays of his own on the ground last year, and has two already in 2012.
The same story can be told in the passing game. The Cardinals are one of six teams without a pass play of 30 or more yards this season while Vick and the Eagles already have two from Jackson and another from Jeremy Maclin.
We do not know if Maclin will play, as he missed practice Wednesday with the hip injury that's been bugging him since the opener. But we have to assume Jackson will make all of the meetings this week and be in the lineup, and so far Vick's been able to stay healthy and they still have McCoy. If the Eagles' offense can hit a couple of those big plays, it could put up a number the Cardinals' offense (behind former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb) simply cannot attain. But if the game remains close and low-scoring, it could certainly go either way, especially if the Eagles keep up their 4.5-per-game turnover pace.