October 12, 2017
Thursday night's matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers, both sitting atop the NFC at 4-1, is expected to be a good one. But because of the chaos caused by playing on just three days' rest, accurately predicting how the game will unfold can be quite challenging, especially because of how evenly matched these teams appear to be.
Still, we tried our best. Here's a look at five over/unders for the Eagles' Week 6 matchup against Cam Newton and the Panthers.
That’s the current line being offered over at Bovada, but if you’re a regular reader of these over/unders, especially one who uses the information contained within for gambling advice, I need to offer up an apology.
Last week, I picked the over, and if it wasn’t for some ridiculous hustle from Rodney McLeod, I would’ve nailed it. But by punching the ball out of the back of the end zone for a touchback, rather than a Cardinals touchdown, he took at least six points off the board in the final seconds of the game. Had Arizona scored there, it would’ve made it 34-13 (and maybe more depending on the extra point try). But even if they went for two and missed, those 47 points would’ve been enough for the over. Instead, they finished with 41 total points, and that wasn’t enough.
As for this week’s game, I don’t see it being quite so one-sided. In my prediction, I picked the Eagles, 27-23, and that’s good enough for the over. Both of these offenses can put up points, and on a short week, it could be difficult for the defenses to prepare for such difficult and unique challenges. Sure, there’s a chance McLeod screws us all over again, but the over is definitely the safer bet here.
Earlier in the week, I wrote about how the final stat line against the Cardinals can be somewhat deceiving. Yes, it suggests that the Eagles ran the ball more than they threw it, but they were skewed by Carson Wentz’s ability to extend the play with his legs – sometimes turning a passing play into a run – and by the fact that the Eagles were blowing their opponents out from the first quarter on.
But since the game is likely to be closer this time around, it will be interesting to see if Doug Pederson’s game plan remains as balanced this time around. This one will largely depend on how the game unfolds, but if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the Eagles needing to throw the ball a few extra times than they’ve needed in their last three wins, all of which involved the Birds getting out to early leads.
Obviously, that’s the goal in every game, and Pederson was quick to attribute that to their ability to establish the run early in games. A look back at their opening drive against the Cardinals (eight passes, two runs, and a touchdown) suggests otherwise, but it didn’t seem to matter much last Sunday.
Against a Panthers defense that’s sixth in passing yards allowed and second in rushing yards allowed, the Birds will have their work cut out for them on Thursday night. And there’s a good chance Pederson reverts to a more pass-heavy attack if the ground game is struggling early.
After turning the ball over twice in each of their first two games, the Eagles offense has just two giveaways (total) in their last three games, and one of them was on an ill-advised pass from Wentz to Zach Ertz at the end of the first half on Sunday. The other was Ertz’s fumble in the fourth quarter against the Giants.
If the Eagles are able to limit themselves to one turnover in Charlotte, they should be in a good position to win. Under Pederson, the Eagles are 8-2 when they win the turnover battle and 3-2 when it’s even. In all other games, meaning the ones in which they lost the turnover battle, the Eagles are 0-6, including this year’s loss to the Chiefs.
The good news for the Eagles here is that the Panthers are one of the worst defenses in the NFL at generating turnovers, as they have just three on the season and just one since their Week 1 win over the lowly 49ers.
In his last two games, Cam Newton has been playing like the 2015 version of Cam Newton, when the Panthers went 15-1 en route to a Super Bowl appearance. If you think Wentz has looked good recently, just look at Newton’s passing numbers the last two week:
It seems like his offseason shoulder surgery is behind him. And that means the Eagles are in for a challenge trying to keep the former MVP in check. But even if he has a big game, that doesn’t mean the end for the Birds. Each of the last three quarterbacks they’ve faced finished with solid passer ratings – Eli Manning (100.1), Philip Rivers (105.9) and Carson Palmer (90.2) and each time, the Eagles were able to get the win.
Of course, none of those QBs, even in their respective primes, were half as mobile as Newton.
One way the Eagles can stifle Newton is by getting to him quickly before he’s able to get into space and make their defenders miss. And despite his agility, size and strength, opposing defenses have been able to get to Newton this season, as he’s been sacked nearly four times per game over his last four games.
Hitting the over here could go a long way towards an Eagles win, especially if the hits Newton is taking have an impact on his already sore throwing shoulder. Without a full week to recover, that could be a problem for Cam on Thursday night. And the Eagles need to take advantage.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports