This is actually the best matchup game the NFL has produced on Thursday night so far this season… two 4-1 teams from different divisions getting after it. Our own veteran correspondent BirdCrazy (Mikey Hurley) is at the game. He says it’s sold out and there’s not a vacant hotel room in downtown Charlotte. So much for the short-lived fan boycott of the NFL!
The Eagles will face the Panthers without right tackle Lane Johnson, who is out while completing his concussion protocol. Hal Vaitai will fill in for Johnson. Don’t mind that “Big V” will be facing off against Julius Peppers—I think the kid is up to the task now after being blooded in last Sunday’s game after filling in admirably for Johnson in the 2nd half of the Cardinals game.
Six Eagles are listed as questionable heading into tonight’s game including Fletcher Cox. The defensive tackle fully participated in practice on Tuesday afternoon for the first time in two weeks. Cox is traveling with the team but is a game-time decision.
In addition, running back Wendell Smallwood (knee), defensive end Chris Long (foot), defensive tackles Beau Allen (foot) and Destiny Vaeao (wrist), and cornerback Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) are also listed as questionable.
On a side note, HC Doug Pederson stated that Stefen Wisniewski will see the majority of the snaps in Thursday’s contest at left guard with Chance Warmack serving as his backup. The two have split reps in the past three games.
For the Panthers, the following players are out:
• C Ryan Kalil (neck): This is the better of the two Kalil brothers. With Kalil out, Tyler Larson will get the start at center.
• S Kurt Coleman (knee): Can you believe Kurt is considered the best secondary player on the Panthers?
• S Demetrious Cox (ankle): Cox is safety depth, which leaves the Panthers thin on the back end. Accordingly, as Jimmy Kempski says, don’t be surprised to see the Eagles try to test the Panthers deep down the field.
One big matchup to key on, according to Kempski, is the Eagles’ rushing attack vs. the Panthers’ front seven.
“The Eagles’ offensive line has been outstanding so far this season, especially the last three weeks in the run game. During their three-game winning streak, the Eagles have gained 173.6 rushing yards per game on the ground. On the season as a whole, they are averaging 138.8 yards per game on the ground, which is fifth in the NFL.
“The Panthers, meanwhile, are sixth in the NFL defensively against the run, as they allow just 78.8 rushing yards per game. That is nothing new for the Panthers, who were fourth against the run in 2015 and sixth against the run in 2016, even when they were a 6-10 team.
“The Panthers’ success against the run is due to the tackling machine tandem of Luke Kuechley and Thomas Davis, who have each had at least 100 tackles every season since 2012. Both Kuechley and Davis (and even Shaq Thompson for that matter) have great speed and instincts, with the ability to run sideline to sideline.”
The plot thickens.
The Carolina offense carries on with confidence, but will its success carry over to a short-week exposure to the Eagles’ improving defense? We will find out soon enough.
A lot of it will be a guessing game. As Fran Duffy analyzes for PE.com, “Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula is one of the best in the league at making a defense believe it sees a play coming, only to hit it with something completely different. With several personnel packages and a slew of potential ballcarriers at the running back, wide receiver, and quarterback positions, Shula utilizes the element of misdirection and disguise to constantly keep defenders guessing.”
The Eagles are going to have to stay disciplined on defense in order to keep track of a bunch of stuff Cam Newton and Shula are going to be running, including Jet Sweeps, option runs, inside-zone runs, screens, wheel routes and Texas routes designed for Christian McCaffrey, and quarterback power-read plays. Control your assigned gap, and make the sure tackle when it’s your turn to get a hand on a ball-carrier. The Panthers offense will try to expose any weak link in Eagles’ defensive attention to detail that it can find.
“Cam does it all, whether he’s back there in the pocket throwing the football or whether he’s keeping it and doing it with his legs,” safety Rodney McLeod said. “He’s tough to defend. You have to be really disciplined and stay with your assignment and trust what we’re doing as a total defense. Cam isn’t going to do the same thing all game. He and Shula are trying to keep the defense guessing.”
The Eagles are dedicating this game to the memory of Ben Hawkins, a truly great Philadelphia/NFL wide receiver who passed away this week at the age of 73:
Didinger: The Hawk Was Once The NFL’s Most Dangerous Receiver
If you want an alternative “Live Thread” to the game tonight, please join us on a site called discord.com.
Our regular commentator and home-run king Ryan Lubrich (aka The Lubricator, aka GSXR Mustang) has created an alternative chat forum for in-game real-time conversation.
Here’s a link to his interesting new talk machine if you wish to give it a look:
As Ryan explains, it’s like a chat channel, primarily used by like-gamers who stream on Twitch, but he figured we might be able to use it for gameday chats. I have found it to be very functional and very entertaining. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of some of the whistles and bells, but after a short while I was zooming along with the other EYE guys and Bored members there talking Eagles football.
See you at the game!