Cardinals wide receiver J.J. Nelson (left) and running back David Johnson celebrate a touchdown in the most recent road win against the Rams.
PHILADELPHIA -- The one that got away still irks Bruce Arians, but even the coaching perfectionist knows the Cardinals have walked on some rarified road air in 2015.
From the blowout wins in Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis to the thriller in Seattle, the Cardinals have looked comfortable in hostile territory throughout the season. As they prime for Sunday night's nationally televised faceoff with the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, the Cardinals have a chance to set a franchise record with seven wins in their eight road games this season.
"Close to perfect, and we should have won the other one (against the Steelers)," Arians said. "It speaks volumes for our team, how we're built, to be able to win that many games on the road, especially with where we've been."
The Cardinals have caught a break in their past two road games, playing in sleepy stadiums against the 49ers and Rams. That won't be the case this time. The Eagles are only 6-7 but sit in a three-way tie atop the NFC East, so the crowd should be engaged.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu said the Cardinals (11-2) have learned some lessons this year in how to succeed away from home.
"It's just our intensity level, energy level, just trying to match the home team's intensity and not trying to start flat," Mathieu said. "I think in a lot of our road games, we started slow but were able to get up out of it. It's critical to start fast against this team."
If the Cardinals win their final road game of the regular season, it could result in a nice long stay in Arizona. The team can clinch the NFC West with a win, and there's also the possibility of securing at least the No. 2 seed with a victory and a Packers loss in Oakland.
That would guarantee a first-round bye and a home game in the NFC divisional round, with the conference title game the only possible road game before the Super Bowl.
To do so, the Cardinals will need to knock off an Eagles team which has been heavily scrutinized for its failures but has played better of late. While polarizing coach Chip Kelly won't get his team to double-digit wins for the third straight season, Philadelphia enters as winners of two straight, including a road victory in New England.
The Cardinals have a lot on the line this week – the NFC West title, a shot at a franchise-record 12 wins, favorable playoff positioning – but aren't expecting it to be an easy task.
"This is a good football team we're playing, and we get to play them on Sunday night," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "Last time we went there (in 2013), we lost a heartbreaker and we had a bad taste in our mouth from it. We have a chance to kind of redeem ourselves. All that extra stuff is extra stuff, but we're not thinking about that kind of stuff. We're so focused on just getting this win, and whatever comes with it, comes with it."
Philadelphia's Sam Bradford has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL statistically this season – his quarterback rating of 82.9 ranks 28th – but he has played better as the season has gone on. In his past four games, Bradford has thrown for 898 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception.
Bradford missed half of 2013 and all of 2014 due to knee injuries and then had to learn a new system following his offseason trade from the Rams to the Eagles.
"It took me a while to get comfortable and just back on the field and in the pocket," Bradford said. "I feel like in the past month, things kind of slowed down and I just feel much more comfortable with what we're doing."
As the Eagles gain comfort, the Cardinals defense may lose some if safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) doesn't play. He will be a game-day decision after not practicing this week, Arians said, and is a key piece lining up the secondary and barking out information pre-snap.
"I don't want to imagine life without Rashad behind us," cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
The offense would receive a boost if running back Andre Ellington (questionable with turf toe) plays, although the Cardinals have proven to be explosive even when pieces are missing. The offensive success will mostly hinge on converting short-yardage and red-zone opportunities, a point of emphasis this week after recent struggles.
The Cardinals will enter this game as favorites like they've done for almost every contest of 2015, and a victory would hand them more tangible proof of a potentially magical season.
"When they have hats and t-shirts (to designate a division champion), that's a big, big game," Arians said.
Images of key players for this week's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles