Friday, January 16, 2009

Philadelphia Is Going To The Super Bowl

On the surface, it is a hard game.

The Cardinals- for all their faults- are very good in their own building. The Eagles are looking at their fourth road game in five- all played to the highest of stakes- and this is a long haul. While the defense is surprisingly healthy, the offense has real questions at tackle and Westbrook looks increasingly worn.

Yet Vegas puts the Eagles up as a road favorite: Philadelphia -4 over Arizona. That is a lot in the professional game considering Arizona is a winning team at home.

The answer is, of course, the Eagles are better. Not Florida over Tulane better- but for two play-off teams, the Eagles have some separation here. They have a much better defense. They have better special teams. They can block Arizona; I don’t know if Arizona can block them. Put it this way, move this game to Philadelphia, and the Eagles probably are close to minus nine-ish in this spot.

I don’t think Arizona is a bad team. This is simply a bad spot for them. In order to step up in class, play over their nine regular season win head, they need teams that don’t bring good pressure in the passing game- then make some mistakes on offense, artificially move the “okay-plus” Arizona defense up to “good”, getting themselves off the field a couple of extra times through no exact merit of their own. They won the last two games largely by forcing a zillion turnovers and passing for touchdowns. And that just isn’t what they are going to be able to Sunday.

To the first point, Kurt Warner is utterly immobile. Philadelphia may have to commit some extra guys- but they are going to get there consistently. The Eagles don’t respect the run much on the best days- even if you’re going for north of 100- and they aren’t going to respect it here either. Foremost, the Eagles are going to get after- and then get to- the old, slow man that directs this offense from under center. A related second point is that for two months now, no one throws on the Eagles in the red zone at all. This superior defensive secondary allows the Eagles to play real condensed fronts inside the red zone- and. I’m real doubtful the Cardinals “rejuvenated rushing attack” is going to succeed near the goal line.

Plus, Philadelphia is not going to be Atlanta or Carolina in this spot. The Eagles play the tightest road game in the NFC; there isn’t going to be that stream of endless turnovers and field position that allowed Arizona to open up the playbook.

I’ve chronicled the utter roll I’m on picking the Eagles: ten out the last thirteen ATS. I’m pretty confident here too. People talk about how balanced Arizona is- but the Giants were balanced too, with a much better defense, and the Eagles handled them twice in a row. Here, Philadelphia is going to handle an Arizona team that isn’t in the current champions class by two scores- so I’ll give Arizona the four.

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