When the Eagles are on Offense:
Brown, who also handled some kick return responsibilities last week, tied a career high with five rushing attempts while rushing for 35 yards against the Redskins. With McCoy and backup Chris Polk out, Brown will shoulder most of the load while Dion Lewis will also get some touches. Unless they have a few tricks up their sleeve, the Eagles offense is going to struggle to get going. Led by rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Panthers boast a strong linebacker corps that has improved against the run as the season has progressed.
The Eagles offensive line is still decimated with injuries and tonight is no different. Former first round pick Danny Watkins will be dressed for the game but will not start at right guard. Over the first half of the season the line was saved by Michael Vick’s elusiveness and ability to avoid the pass rush. Unfortunately we got a glimpse of how (not) elusive Nick Foles is as he was sacked four times for 27 yards. With defensive ends Charles Johnson (8.5 sacks) and Greg Hardy (7.0 sacks) getting after Foles tonight, they might be able to up that total tonight.
The Eagles need to get the ball out of Foles’ hands and into hands of their playmakers. Last week Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin combined for two catches (both by Jackson) for just five yards. In order for the Eagles to be successful tonight, their playmakers need to have the ball in their hands. Look for them to run a decent amount of screen passes to keep the defense honest.
When the Panthers are on Offense:
The Panthers feature a stable of runners that can cause havoc for the Eagles defense which is notorious for its inability to tackle. Both running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart rushed for 760+ yards last season while Newton rushed for 700 yards last year and leads the team with 394 rushing yards this year. The threat of Newton’s ability to run, combined with his big arm, and his 6’5’’ 245 lbs. frame makes him a matchup nightmare for the Eagles. Robert Griffin III who is significantly smaller than Newton shed tacklers last Sunday at will. If Newton is on his game, it will be even worse on Monday night.
Newton could have a big game on the ground but could also have a big game through the air as well. The Eagles have just seven interceptions on the year and that includes four interceptions on opening day against rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. Since Todd Bowles has taken over for fired defenseive coordinator Juan Castillo, the Eagles have not had an interception. Under Bowles quarterbacks are completing 78% of their passes and 77% of their passes of 20 yards or more (the highest in the NFL in that time). Under Castillo this year the Eagles had allowed a completion percentage of just 31.8% on passes of 20 yards or more which led the NFL over the first six weeks of the season. Newtown has not thrown a touchdown pass of 20 yards or more this year (34 attempts) while opponents have gone 4-for-9 on such passes under Todd Bowles.
The bad defensive statistics can go on all day. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, who has incendiary speed, is bound to have a big performance against the Eagles secondary. Smith, along with tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Brandon LaFell, are Newton’s favorite targets and which means they will likely spread out the Eagles defense.
Special Teams and Prediction:
The last time the Panthers beat the Eagles was on January 18, 2004 when they came into Philadelphia and upset the Eagles 14-3 in the NFC Championship Game. The combined winning percentage makes this the third worst Monday Night Football game in history. The Eagles have lost six straight games while the Panthers have lost two straight and seven of their last eight contests.
I cannot pick the Eagles to win this game. Starting a rookie quarterback against the pass rush from the Panthers ends spells doom. In addition to that, the Eagles don’t run the ball when they have All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy in the backfield, why in the world would they run the ball more with Bryce Brown.
I think the Eagles stay stubborn and try to throw 50 times and it fails. I think the same problems emerge on the defensive side with an inability to tackle combined with Newton picking apart the secondary.
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