In Week 5, Carolina defeated another viable NFC team in the Detroit Lions. This was an impressive road win, especially when considering the media attention that QB Cam Newton had caused earlier in the week with his comments toward a female reporter. Nonetheless, Newton looked as if he wasn’t fazed, throwing for three TDs in a 27-24 victory. The Panthers host the Eagles in a short week this Thursday.
Philadelphia was able to hold serve at home, destroying the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, 34-7. QB Carson Wentz put on a show, throwing for four TDs and amassed a 128.3 QB rating. The defense stifled the Arizona Cardinals offensive attack, holding them to seven points, while the Eagles offense dominated time of possession by over 10 minutes. This has been a formula for success for Philadelphia through the first five weeks, but they will a face a much stiffer test Thursday night when they travel to Carolina to face Cam Newton and company.
Two of the premier young NFL QBs will be on display Thursday night. Carson Wentz is coming off of one of his best performances of his career, while Cam Newton responded after a week’s worth of distractions involving his controversial press conference by going into Detroit and having arguably his best game as a pro, throwing for 355 yards to go with his three TDs. The expectations have been heightened for each of these teams and their QBs, as they both are coming off of career games.
Both of these teams boast top 10 run defenses in the NFL through the first five weeks. Philadelphia ranks second in this category, yielding only 62.8 yards per game to opponents rushing attacks, while Carolina ranks sixth, allowing only 79.8 yards per rush to opponents. Both offenses have the ability to be physical running teams – with Eagles RB LeGarrette Blount and Carolina RB Jonathan Stewart – so this could be an important factor in deciding this one. Which run defense will show up on Thursday night?
The Eagles were, in lighter terms, dreadful at WR in 2016. However, they did a nice job in the offseason adding some weapons for QB Carson Wentz. WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were added via free agency, and they have found a rejuvenated Nelson Agholor working in the slot. This has allowed the Eagles to put together a formidable WR core. Eagles HC Doug Pederson likes to be aggressive pushing the ball downfield with the pass, which will require the Carolina DBs to be efficient in their communication and coverage skills. This is a critical positional battle in this game.
Matchup to watch: DE Julius Peppers, CAR vs RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, PHI
Julius Peppers is yet another ageless wonder in the NFL. The 16-year veteran is still proving he can be a force off of the edge in this league, registering 5.5 sacks through Carolina’s first five games, which leads all Panther players. Philadelphia’s normal starting right tackle, Lane Johnson, is expected to be out with a concussion, which leaves Halapoulivaati Vaitai tasked to slowing down Peppers, something that has never been easy. Expect Peppers to continue to make an impact for this Panthers defense in this matchup.
Fantasy football tip: RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR
Finally! It only took five weeks, but Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey was able to find the endzone for his first NFL touchdown last week against the Detroit Lions. It came on a 6-yard shovel pass early in the second quarter, which tied the game up at 10-10. This week expect McCaffrey to be busy in the receiving game, as Cardinals RB Andre Ellington was able to haul in nine receptions last week against the same Eagles defense. Carolina makes it difficult to matchup with McCaffrey, as they often move him around the field, often creating matchup advantages. I expect a big day in the receiving game from the Panthers RB, as he will secure at least his second NFL TD in this one.
Betting tip: Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5)
Carolina has struggled ATS in their last eight Thursday Night Football games, going 2-6. The Eagles, however, haven’t been much better as they are only 3-5 as an away underdog, dating back to last year. With that being said, I do think this game will be close and come down to the wire, therefore I’d take the team getting points. Eagles (+3.5) is the play.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers 28 – Philadelphia Eagles 26
Carolina is coming off of two impressive road wins, and will finally get a chance to play in front of a home crowd this Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Carolina’s offense has been on a roll the past two weeks, averaging 30ppg, behind the impressive play of their QB Cam Newton. The Eagles are giving up 283.2 yards per game through the air, which could allow Newton and the passing attack to have a big day. Carson Wentz and the Eagles should be able to match Carolina’s production, but it won’t be enough, as Carolina will squeak one out on Thursday night, 28-26.
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