It doesn’t get easier when you’re 1-3, now the Eagles have to somehow put together a W by playing to their fullest potential with minimal mistakes against a Carolina Panthers team which is itching to put on a big show for the home crowd in Charlotte.
Panthers will try to bounce back from a 36-28 loss to Dallas last time out. Sam Darnold has thrown for 1,189 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions on 67.8% passing so far, while Chuba Hubbard has 19 rushing yards in relief of Christian McCaffrey, who is out with an injury. DJ Moore leads Carolina’s receivers with 30 grabs on 43 targets for 398 yards and 3 scores, while three other Panthers have at least 100 receiving yards this season. On defense, Shaq Thompson leads the Panthers with 25 total tackles while Haason Reddick has 4.5 sacks, and Brian Bruns also has 3 sacks this season.
The real obstacle for the Birds may be more about a man named Brady.
The Carolina Panthers are enjoying a fine start to the 2021 campaign, which will obviously see more eyes cast towards offensive coordinator Joe Brady when the time comes in the New Year.
Brady got plenty of head coaching interviews after just one season of calling plays at the next level earlier this year. He is widely regarded as one of the league’s brightest young offensive minds, but organizations felt a little more experience was needed before his taking on the top job.
The Panthers are benefiting from Brady’s presence – at least for another few months. He seems to be turning around quarterback Sam Darnold’s career quickly, which is only going to enhance Brady’s chances of a big-time promotion.
Pass protection is something the Panthers need to do more effectively if they want to remain on track. Sam Darnold was running for his life constantly as the pocket collapsed around him in the Cowboys game. That may be the cue for the Eagles pass rush in their game plan if they have a realistic hope of re-establishing a defensive presence this weekend. Carolina is getting less than they need from the interior of their offensive line. John Miller and Matt Paradis have been subpar at best in this category, although Dennis Daley’s production over the last two weeks leaves reasons for them to be encouraged.
Carolina’s run defense looked very vulnerable against Dallas, so the Eagles may want to dial up their reluctant tendency to run the ball. The Panthers did not survive a one-game demolition by Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard on the ground in Dallas, who were both running behind a dominant offensive line.
To the Eagles’ benefit, the Carolina Panthers are nervously awaiting some news regarding Shaq Thompson, who is reportedly set for a spell on the sidelines according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. This would be a substantial blow considering how well the outside linebacker has performed this season and especially when one examines the lack of depth currently at the Panthers’ second level. Carolina called up Kamal Martin from the active roster at the expense of offensive lineman Michael Jordan, who was waived.
Sportsnaut.com took all the positives and negatives and distilled it down to this:
“A Christian McCaffrey-less rushing attack hurts Carolina’s chances, but the Eagles have allowed over 100 rushing yards in all four games this season. And suddenly Sam Darnold is a threat to score, with five rushing touchdowns already this season. What this boils down to is which quarterback will make fewer mistakes between Jalen Hurts and Darnold. The thinking here is that Darnold and the Panthers’ swarming defense will be too much for Hurts and Philly’s offense to keep pace with.”
Okay, that’s a fair assessment based on a 1-3 team going into a 3-1 team’s house. What nobody can predict is the possibility that Philly’s defense finally gets it together on creating more consistent pressure on the quarterback, and at the same time slowing down the run game. If that happens, this game is up for grabs.
Early NFL predictions and picks are from ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).
Eagles: 33.9% to win
Panthers: 65.8% to win
Moneyline: PHI: (+150) | CAR: (-178)
Spread: PHI: +3.5 (-110) | CAR: -3.5 (-110)