NFL: Arizona Cardinals face Philadelphia Eagles live on Sky Sports
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 01/12/13 7:06pm
Nick Foles has been in flying form for the Eagles
Two teams in form meet on Sunday in our first live Sky Sports game, with both boasting high-flying offences and tough defences it promises to be an intriguing showdown between Arizona and Philadelphia, teams still well in the play-off hunt.
The Eagles have won three on the spin, and a fourth would put them back on top of the NFC East, while the Cardinals are on a four-game winning streak and a fifth at Lincoln Financial Field would ensure their best run for 36 years.
Home advantage counts for little in Philly this season with just one win in five games on their own turf, but that was in their last game at Lincoln Financial Field two weeks ago and with a three-game stretch at home they could well turn that around in a hurry.
Chip Kelly's Eagles have made light of the injury to quarterback Michael Vick, as it allowed back-up Nick Foles to have his chance and he has been superb in winning four of his five starts to earn the job for the rest of the season.
Foles has 13 touchdowns with no interceptions during his spell under centre, but he faces a impressive Arizona defence this week - which is eighth in the league in total defence and points allowed and which shut down Andrew Luck and the Colts in a 40-11 win last Sunday.
In LeSean McCoy, though, the Eagles have the NFL's leading rusher with 1,009 yards already and his battle with Arizona's second-best rush defence in the league will be a key feature of the game.
While you'd normally bill this as a defence v offence battle, both teams have improved on both sides of the ball, with Arizona's offence and Philadelphia's defence also showing up in recent games.
The Eagles have not conceded more than 21 points in the last seven games, five of which they've won, while in Carson Palmer the Cards look to have a viable quarterback option - he's thrown for 733 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games.
Arizona's recent win streak has taken them level with divisional rivals San Francisco on 7-4 and tied for the sixth NFC play-off spot, but in arguably the best division in the league maintain that post-season push will be a tough ask.
"I think there's no reason we don't (make play-offs)," said head coach Bruce Arians. "We have a big game this week again against a team that's a game behind us on the road, was in first place and fighting for the division title, so it will be another good barometer."
In the other early games on Sunday, New England are closing in on the AFC East title yet again as they travel to face the league's best total defence - although you may be surprised to see that team is the 2-9 Houston Texans who have lost nine on the spin.
Carolina are the hottest team in the league after seven straight wins, and with Cam Newton growing by the week as a passer and their defence remaining one the toughest around they are suddenly in the Super Bowl discussions - and a win over Tampa Bay would put some serious heat on NFC South leaders New Orleans ahead of their Monday night trip to Seattle.
It's suddenly all very serious in the AFC South as the Colts host the Titans, with a win for Tennessee putting them right back on Indy's tails. Andrew Luck needs to get his offence moving quickly if he is to avoid the first back-to-back defeats of his young career.
Chicago's struggling run defence could not have a tougher match-up than Minnesota's Adrian Peterson on the back of a 146-yard game against the Packers. If the Bears are to get back on top of the NFC North they'll need Josh McCown to win this with his arm.
Such is the ridiculous state of the AFC, both the Jets and Dolphins have genuine play-off chances on the line when they clash in New York with them both on 5-6. Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace showed some chemistry last week so will look for that to continue - while the Jets would be well served running the ball as often as possible with Geno Smith's recent struggles.
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