Winning the turnover battle can sometimes turn an under-dog into a favorite or vice versa very quickly in the NFL. Nothing epitomized that more than the Arizona Cardinals, who forced six turnovers in their 33-13 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers last Saturday. Six turnovers, including five interceptions by Panthers’ quarterback Jake Delhomme? No team can survive that. Some say the Cardinals got lucky that the bad Delhomme showed up. There was certainly some luck involved, but the Cardinals did a great job disguising their coverages and jumping routes at the precise time.
As for Sunday’s NFC championship game, the Eagles and their blitzing defense against Arizona’s dynamic passing attack will be an interesting matchup. Arizona surprised everyone with their rushing game as Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower combined for 133 yards on 37 carries. The numbers weren’t overwhelming, but the Cardinals ran it well enough to keep the Panthers honest and open the door for Larry Fitzgerald. In order to keep it going against the Eagles, the Cardinals will have to stay committed to the run for at least the first half. As for the Eagles, their defense totally stymied the Giants in their 23-11 win.
To win this week, the Eagles are going to need their defense to harass Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner. History shows that the right amount of pressure can force any quarterback into mistakes. The Giants did it against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl last year. The Eagles and their blitzing schemes could do the same thing on Sunday. That doesn’t mean Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Johnson can go crazy with the blitz, though. If Anquan Boldin is healthy enough to play and James and Hightower can come close to Saturday’s performance, it’s imperative that the Eagles’ defense play under control. Offensively, Donovan McNabb and his brilliance on third down was the difference. He’ll need Bryan Westbrook to be at his best against a fired-up Arizona defense.
Prediction: As well as the Cardinals offense has played, they haven’t faced this type of defense. Look for the Eagles to advance in a 34-26 win.