October 11, 2017
In the blink of an eye – or maybe it just feels that way – Philadelphia has gone from taking a nice quiet ride on the Wentz Wagon to a full-speed-ahead ride on the Eagles hype train.
Enjoy it, Eagles fans, because after a 4-1 start that has them already up two games on the rest of the NFC East, the Birds deserve some recognition.
But after three straight games against teams who have combined for just three wins on the season – the Giants, Chargers and Cardinals – their first real test since Week 2 when they lost to the Chiefs.
Not only are the Panthers 4-1 as well, but the Eagles will have to face them without right tackle Lane Johnson and potentially once again without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Furthermore, the short turnaround of a Thursday Night Football game.
But the Panthers are also coming off a short week, and while the Eagles coasted to victory last week, the Panthers had to hold on against the Lions for a 27-24 win.
Then there's Cam Newton, who started off slowly following offseason surgery, but has been lights out the last two weeks. Against the Lions and Patriots, whom the Panthers also beat, Newton completed better than 77 percent of his passes and threw for 671 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception (137.2 passer rating). He also ran for another touchdown.
Because it hasn't really hurt the Eagles yet, it's easy to forget just how injured they are on defense in addition to Cox, but they could get some help this week with both he and safety Jaylen Watkins listed as questionable – the team had a walk-thru on Wednesday, but both would've been full participants had they actually practiced.
None of that may matter if Carson Wentz has another big game in Charlotte, but either way, it's shaping up to be a good game between two of the best teams in the NFC.
TV: NFL Network, CBS | STREAM: Amazon | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Panthers (-3) | TOTAL: 46.5 (via Bovada)
The Eagles can win this game. #Analysis. But they probably won't.
The Panthers look closer to the dominant team they were in 2015 when they went to the Super Bowl than the disappointment they were in 2016 when they went 6-10. Going on the road on a short week to play a really good team on Thursday night is a tall order. I think the Eagles will play tough and give Carolina a game, but they fall short.
Without Lane Johnson, I don’t feel good about this one from Philadelphia’s perspective. Big V filled in admirably in the second half of last week’s game, but on a short week and with Carolina’s defense smelling blood on the right side of the line, my guess is Carson Wentz takes far too many hits in this one.
I don’t think this offense will be stopped altogether — they’ve been one of the most consistent units in the league—but they will suffer without one of their bookends. Cam Newton has been absolutely lights-out the last couple weeks, and while Thursday Night Football is tough on both teams, it’s especially difficult for the visiting squad, which has to deal with travel on top of the short rest.
Everyone is riding high in Philly right now, so I’m preparing for a lot of “sky is falling” reactions on Friday.
Since losing to the Chiefs, the Eagles have been able to go 3-0 despite some major injuries on both sides of the ball. But they may be facing their biggest loss yet Thursday night with Lane Johnson (concussion) sidelined.
In the 10 games he missed with while suspended last season, the Eagles went just 2-8. But in the 11 games in which he's played (dating back to the start of last season) under Doug Pederson, the Birds are 9-2. That can't be a coincidence. Against a tough Panthers front seven, that could be problematic, to say the least.
However, I made the mistake of picking against the Eagles two weeks ago when they played the Chargers, and I'm not making that mistake again. Their offensive line should be deep enough to minimize the loss of Johnson, and his replacement Halapoulavaati Vaitai, is a year older – and hopefully somewhat improved. If he can hold down the fort, then I don't see any reason why the Eagles can't come out of Carolina with a win.
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