Well, one of the biggest scheduling blunders of the season hits tonight when the Panthers travel to Philly to take on the Eagles. Let’s take a look at the statistical rankings first:
Total Offense: 21st – 334 ypg
Passing Offense: 17th – 226.1 ypg – 8.0 yds/att
Rushing Offense: 18th – 107.9 ypg – 4.0 ypc
Total Defense: 18th – 350.7 ypg
Passing Defense: 17th – 232.3 ypg – 7.0 yds/att
Rushing Defense: 20th – 118.4 ypg – 4.2 yds/car
Total Offense: 13th – 361.7 ypg
Passing Offense: 15th – 240.1 ypg – 6.6 yds/att
Rushing Offense: 11th – 121.6 ypg – 4.4 ypc
Total Defense: 12th – 340.3 ypg
Passing Defense: 13th – 222.0 ypg – 7.2 yds/att
Rushing Defense: 18th – 118.3 ypg – 4.3 yds/att
The two biggest statistical things that jump out at me are the differences in yards per pass attempt and turnover margin. Cam’s vertical passing game has his yards per attempt tied for third (with several other teams) there while Philly’s 6.6 is a very pedestrian number.
The Eagles will be starting their rookie QB, Nick Foles, in his second consecutive game. Normally, this would be a good thing for the Panthers, but I’m not so sure I wouldn’t rather see the turnover machine, Michael Vick, taking the snaps. Having said that, Foles has 3 INTs vs. a single TD in the passing game and his inexperience won’t help the Eagles either.
I think the Carolina offense has to hold an advantage here in one of very few matchups where they do this year. The Panthers’ run defense has really improved since last season and should only get better with time. Rookie MLB Luke Kuechly may once again be starting on the weak side, however, with Jason Phillips filling in at the spot due to Jon Beason’s injury. The Panthers’ website lists Kuechly at MLB with James Anderson playing the strong side and Thomas Davis the weak, but they’ve not updated it recently since they still show Jeff Byers at starting RG when coach Rivera said Garry Williams will be starting. Either way, the defense has been the bright spot this season with an improved pass rush from the front four and better play in the middle from the defensive tackles.
The Eagles haven’t been able to generate much of a pass rush this year, either. Their leading sackman is Jason Babin with 4.5 at the strong-side DE spot, followed by rookie DT Fletcher Cox with 3. With Newton’s mobility, any deficiencies in the offensive line shouldn’t be too huge in the passing game. The danger is in their two good corners, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
On the Eagles’ offense, they have some of the best players as a group at the skill positions with WRs Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson both being capable of scoring on a long ball. TE Brent Celek has 41 receptions for 509 yards, making him as dangerous a TE as Greg Olson statistically. RB LeSean “Shady” McCoy is a top-five RB in the NFL but is injured (concussion) and so is RB Chris Polk (foot) so the load will fall to rookie Bryce Brown.
Unless the Eagles can really slow down the Panthers’ pass rush, their patchwork o-line won’t be doing Foles many favors. They really miss LT Jason Peters and former Auburn Tiger King Dunlap isn’t the player Peters is when healthy. Rookie RT Dennis Kelly will have his hands full with Chris Johnson, so I expect Foles to be under a lot of pressure.
This is going to sound strange, considering the Panthers’ season, but I expect them to win this game. The real key will be how well Philadelphia does on first down. If the Panthers’ defense can keep Foles in second and third and long most of the time, they can really pin their ears back and go after Foles and hopefully force some mistakes that the defense can capitalize on. The Eagles are starting several rookies on offense, so there will be mistakes.
Carolina 28, Philadelphia 23