October 24, 2015
Since dismantling the Panthers in Week 10 of last season, the Eagles are just 6-7. The Panthers, meanwhile, are 10-3 (including the postseason) and are one of just two NFC teams without a loss this season.
The Eagles, however, are coming off consecutive 20-point wins and find themselves atop the NFC East for the first time all season. If they hope to remain there, they'll have to win a tough road game -- with the bye week on the other side of it -- and will likely need their offense to step up and match the level at which the defense has been playing with all season.
If they're unable to do so, Chip Kelly will head into the bye with a losing record for the first time in his three seasons as Eagles coach. That would make for a long week off.
Here, as always, are five over/unders for Sunday night's game...
Since his 13-carry, two-yard performance against his former team in Week 2, Murray has improved each week, and against the Giants on Monday night, he surpassed 100 rushing yards for the first time all season (112 yards on 21 carries). The Panthers run defense hasn’t been quite as good as the Giants this season, and if you couple that with the fact that he’s coming off his best showing of the season, he’ll likely get a healthy dose of carries (20 or more).
The thing that most stood out about Murray on Monday night, however, was how fast he looked, much better than he had all season. If the same DeMarco Murray shows up this Sunday, I think the Eagles back is capable of crossing the 100-yard threshold for the second straight week.
When these two teams met last season, the Eagles were able to bring down an injured Cam Newton nine times. A year later, and playing much better, the Panthers QB will likely be more difficult to contain, even if defensive coordinator Bill Davis believes he has the perfect person to spy Newton in OLB Connor Barwin.
The Eagles defense has been good at getting to opposing QBs this season — their 14 sacks are tied for 11th in the NFL — and they have eight sacks in their last two games alone.
However, the opportunities may be limited, considering the Panthers pass the ball just 49 percent of the time. But if Sam Bradford and the Birds offense gets out to a big lead like it did last season and force Carolina to pass more than it usually does, I could certainly see the defense reaching 3.5 sacks (on average, the Panthers allow two/game). Unfortunately, I see a low-scoring game in which the Panthers will try to control the pace with their ground attack, which is currently ranked third in the NFL with 132.8 yards/game.
The Eagles said this week that their goal is force three turnovers per game. That’s certainly a lofty goal, but not ridiculous considering how well this unit has been playing this season. Currently, their averaging 2.67 turnovers and have forced seven in the last two games.
They’ll have their work cut out for them against Carolina on Sunday night, however, as the Panthers have only turned the ball over five times so far this year, although all five belong to Newton (4 INT, FUM). Only three teams in the NFL — the Packers (4), Patriots (3) and Steelers (3) — have turned the ball over fewer times through the first six weeks of the season.
The Eagles have forced at least one turnover in each game — including multiple turnovers in all but one (Week 4 at WAS) — and I don’t see that trend changing this week. However, I do see them failing to hit their goal of three turnovers, so I’m going to have to take the under.
The second-year wideout had a career game against the Panthers last season, catching seven of his nine targets for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This season, Matthews hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that comes after an eight-touchdown rookie season. He’s scored only once this season, and hasn’t caught more than six passes in a game since the team’s Week 1 loss in Atlanta and has averaged just 5.2 receptions per game despite averaging 8.6 targets. Call it a hunch, but I think Matthews has his best game since the Falcons loss and gets something between 7-9 catches on Sunday night.
Bradford has thrown multiple interceptions in four of the team’s six games. And in the other two, he hasn’t thrown any. Coincidentally, those are the only two games in which Bradford has thrown less than 30 passes. I want to take the under here, I really do, but based on what I’ve seen out of Bradford recently, I just can’t. Because as Daniel Tosh said:
By the way, these aren't my beliefs; it's my observations on the world I live in. If it changes, I'll adjust the material accordingly.