With three consecutive losses in the books, the Birds look to get back on track this Sunday as they travel down to Charlotte in an attempt to upset the Carolina Panthers. While things have been largely negative in Philadelphia, the opposite is the case in North Carolina. Even after a loss in which they gave up 36 points to the Cowboys, the Panthers still sit tied atop the NFC South with an impressive 3-1 record. Big name offseason acquisitions and young talent have exceeded expectations to bring them to this point. Things won’t be getting much easier this week for the Birds, but expect plenty of fight from a team that desperately wants to avoid falling to 1-4.
The Panthers defense has the ability to be one of the most swarming in the league. They have playmakers at every single level that have the ability to make game altering plays at any given moment. Their two leaders in the back seven, Jeremy Chinn and Shaq Thompson have embraced important roles; both players have missed just a combined five snaps so far this season. Both players possess the speed and size to cover both Running Backs and Tight Ends. Expect them to make the screen game difficult with their sideline to sideline speed.
Their defensive line is headlined by Brian Burns who is probably their best defender. Burns and Haason Reddick are tremendous edge rushers, and Derrick Brown and DaQuan Jones are stout up the middle against the run. The Panthers starting Defensive Line is one of the best in the entire league, but they are on the field entirely way too much. Their defensive line depth is terrible, so the starters are often gassed. If Nick Sirianni is smart, he will run the ball and control the clock to tire out their front, but that is unlikely.
The Panthers’ achilles heel are their Cornerbacks. Newly added Stephon Gilmore is not eligible to play until week seven, so the only capable Corner they currently have is Donte Jackson. Eighth overall pick Jaycee Horn recently suffered a long term foot injury, so they are depending on a washed up A.J. Bouye, recently acquired C.J. Henderson, and other low end roster players. The Eagles need to do what they did last game and take what the defense gives them. They tried to force big plays against depleted secondaries the previous two weeks, but had a much smarter approach last week.
The Eagles should be looking to run a lot of 11 personnel once again to spread out the defense, give Jalen Hurts easier reads, and force Carolina into nickel or dime coverages. Donte Jackson is a good Cornerback, so Devonta Smith may have a tough day. Hurts will need to look to his secondary weapons like Quez Watkins and Dallas Goedert. If the Panthers have Jeremy Chinn playing more of a traditional deep safety position, then Goedert should have a big game running intermediate routes, but if they decide to have Chinn play more as a hybrid, there will be some big play opportunities downfield.
The Panthers’ offense has been extremely impressive and are now likely to have star Running Back, Christian McCaffrey back in the lineup. The Stanford product went down week three with a hamstring injury and was initially projected to be out through this week, but is now expected to play. He brings their offense to another level and will be nearly impossible to cover; he is what makes the offense good rather than decent.
Joe Brady helped evolve Joe Burrow into a Heisman winner and first overall pick when he was at LSU. He is now working the same magic on Sam Darnold. Darnold, selected third overall by the Jets in the 2018 NFL Draft, was stuck in a terrible situation for the first three years of his career. Now that he has been placed in a properly run offense with weapons, his true potential is beginning to show.
The Eagles secondary has been underrated so far this season but are yet again going to be put to the test. Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore have been one of the best Wide Receiver duos in the game and are complemented by Terrace Marshall, a rookie second round pick who is a more than capable WR3. Darius Slay should not have too much trouble, but there is a good chance that Steven Nelson will. Don’t expect many deep shots down the field as Carolina will most likely take the easy reads that the Eagles give them underneath.
This is not a game that will be won in the trenches. The old cliche is normally very accurate, but not in this game. The Panthers Offensive Line is not too accomplished, but they often play outside of the tackles. The Linebackers will be tasked with defending Christian McCaffrey against both the pass and the run. That is a sentence no Eagles fan wants to hear. However, if Jonathan Gannon’s zone defense can properly defend him, the Birds have a good chance at limiting Carolina’s offense. However, that is a very big “if”.
Christian McCaffrey simply adds way too much to the Carolina Panthers. He is the difference maker in this game. I truly believe that the result of this game depends on his health; if he is 100%, I think the Panthers win, but if he is not then the Eagles should win. Aside from McCaffrey, the Eagles match up very well with Carolina on both sides of the ball. Regardless, this is still a very winnable game. If the Eagles increase their efficiency in the red zone and on third down, they should be in this game until the very end.
Eagles 23, Panthers 28
Offensive Player of the Game:
Defensive Player of the Game: