Sunday, October 8, 2017

Eagles - Cardinals Takeaways: A Welcome Lack Of Drama

My favorite post-game graphic
Today, my beloved laundry went to 4-1 with a resounding 34-7 home win against a team they should beat, well, in a resounding manner, and the difference between the two teams was so vast, even Doug Pederson couldn't keep it close. Let's get into the finer points.

> What people will remember from this game is QB Carson Wentz having his best game to date as a pro, with 300+ yards on a low '30s pass count, rampant efficiency on third down, only one (glaring, but still, just one) turnover, and four touchdowns. (The first time that an Eagle QB had gone for more than two in, gulp, four years. Try not to dwell on that.) But what I'll remember is Kenyon Barner, the definition of fungible RB/STer, having his best game, with a back-breaking punt return, several key runs, and just all-around goodness. The Eagles dominated every phase of this game, and that could have been expected. Barner looking like Darren Sproles II, not so much.

> This is probably the last time we'll ever see Larry Fitzgerald face the Eagles, and I, for one, am glad to be rid of him. Dude has owned my team more than anyone in my recent memory, especially for a non-division foe, and while he was still the best WR on the field for Red today, the game was (happily) not close enough for him to call down the demons again. Amazing player.

> I don't want to throw cold water on a team that's leading its division nicely, with division rivals losing games and players left and right... but wow, the Cardinals just stunk up the place today. There's got to be something about West Coast teams just not getting their body clocks right for 10am PST / 1pm EST games, because this one was 21-0 after the first quarter, and never really got to drama after that. Arizona has major issues at offensive line, their all-world RB is hurt, their QB is ancient and immobile, and the defense is in transition... but I've seen my Eagles keep worse teams in games all year. It takes an effort to get your ass kicked this much, this fast.

> Wentz spread the love around today, with TDs to four different receivers, but the highlight reel play was to WR Nelson Agholor, who beat his man deep, showed hands that no one in town knew he had, emptied his tool box of moves to get the last ten yards and the touchdown, then did the backwards trust fall for the score. That was all kinds of nifty, and the only thing that made it hurt (a little) for me was that my opponent in a fantasy league was starting both Wentz and Agholor. Just your garden variety 22-point play in fantasy. (I think I'm still going to win, and yes, no one cares.)

> The most promising part of this game for me was the play of the secondary. With the ARI running game predictably threadbare (14 carries for 41 yards, which almost seems like an average day for both units), it was obvious that QB Carson Palmer was going to fill the air with footballs, and defensive line pressure only lasts so long in today's NFL. Gone were the last two games of bend and occasionally break, with a manageable 44 attempts for 291 yards. It could have been a much better day if multiple INT opportunities weren't dropped, but if DBs could catch footballs, they wouldn't be DBs.

> You knew the Fox crew was well and truly bored with this game from the shots we got of TE Zach Ertz's wife (he's got one! she's an athlete! who the hell cares!) and Painted Dudes with Eagle Feathers. Honestly, between the media telling us all about Lone Wolf shooters as if they were breakout characters in a reality TV show, and giving air time to drunken cosplayers, I'm ready to repeal some broadcast licenses. Stop giving airtime to terrible humans. You'd think this lesson would have been learned by now, honestly.

> The Eagle WR crew really stepped up with the celebrations today. Smith's baseball long ball routine was an exceptional use of group choreography, Agholor's trust fall was all kinds of fun, and given his yips near the end zone, I'm amazed that Ertz knows what to do after scoring. I'm also giving a pass to TE Trey Burton, who was probably too shocked after pulling off that in-flight adjustment and making the play to know what to do, either. TEs, time to practice this stuff. (Oh, and if you are a bitter Alshon Jeffery fantasy owner, not sure what to tell you. This offense is just spread all over.)

> The entire defensive line had fun in this game, but the guy I want to single out is Vinny Curry. Dude caught a lot of grief for cashing a check last year and not playing up to it, but there's a possibility that was injury related, and he just looks worlds better so far in 2017. Between him and Tommy Jurnigan, the line didn't miss a beat for not having its best player (Fletcher Cox, who should be back soon), and they continue to free up the linebackers for maximum efficiency. I'm still not sold on this defense being as good as they've looked so far -- Pederson's clock-milking helps hide depth issues, and there are too many deep balls completed for comfort -- but this has been the best that this unit has looked in the better part of a decade. (Oh, and if you do want to knock a guy, first round pick DE Derek Barnett isn't doing much positive, and that's kind of worrisome.)

> I'm probably burying the lede here, but Wentz? Pretty damn good QB. He saved his best moments for third downs early, got some deep balls working (that's been his worst feature to date as a pro, along with questionable ball security), moved in the pocket well, and just never looked like the moment was getting too big for him. He's still got some ways to go, as there are moments of hair-pulling inaccuracy and Shaky Play Sequences before turnovers, and I'm not sure if he'll ever be reliably good for your fantasy team, what with Pederson trying to play every game with the least number of snaps possible. But he's clearly the best QB in the division, and one of the better ones in the league. And he's had the job for all of 21 games.

> Next up: Carolina on the road for Terrible Night Football, and if the laundry somehow pulls that off, dangerous amounts of confidence and exuberance from Philly Fan, who really does not know how to handle prosperity. I'm not sure I do, either, but it'd be all kinds of fun to try it out. Especially with the Giants at 0-5 and suddenly bereft of WRs to go with their lack of OL and RBs, Dallas getting de-pantsed at the close at home by Aaron Rodgers, and the Racial Slurs with the eternal pain of their ownership around to screw things up. I'm not ready to start talking parades, but I am starting to think about hosting playoff games and having a bye week...

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