No matter what happens Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Philadelphia Eagles will go home as the NFC East Division leaders. But the Eagles hope to continue the momentum they have gained with three straight wins, the latest an impressive 34-7 thrashing of the visiting Arizona Cardinals.
This actually has the potential to be a very intriguing football game on Thursday night, a rarity in the NFL.
The Carolina Panthers have had to scratch and claw their way to a half-game lead in the NFC South Division. After a 34-13 dismantling at the hands of the visiting New Orleans Saints three weeks ago, Carolina has rallied for consecutive three-point victories on the road at New England and Detroit. But hey, a win is a win!
The Eagles, with a record of 4-1, currently own a 1 ½ game advantage over the Washington Redskins, who host the San Francisco 49ers Sunday afternoon. The Panthers, at 4-1, are trying to stay ahead of the Atlanta Falcons, who put their 3-1 record on the line at home against the Dolphins.
Thursday night will mark the 11th meeting between the two teams, with the Eagles holding a 6-4 edge. Carolina won the last meeting two years ago in Bank of America Stadium by a score of 27-16.
Of course, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was still in college at North Dakota State University at the time. Wentz, now in his second season with the Eagles, has completed 110 of 177 passes for 1,362 yards with 10 touchdowns, only three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 97.7 to help get Philadelphia off to its quick start.
But it has been the bruising ground game, led by New England castoff LeGarrette Blount, that has spelled the real difference for the Eagles, who are No. 3 in total offense in the National Football League. After barely seeing the field in a loss to Kansas City in week two, Blount has taken off. In a week three win against the Giants, Blount carried the ball 12 times for 67 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
The following week, he ran the ball 16 times for 136 yards, an 8.5 yards-per-carry average, including a long of 68 yards that proved to be the back-breaker against the Chargers.
“That man’s angry. Feed him the ball,” Wentz said. “From my vantage point, it was one of the most impressive runs I’ve seen live. He came out and was running angry today and it was good to see.”
Then, last week, in the Eagles’ domination of the visiting Cardinals, had 14 carries for 74 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per carry.
Zach Ertz is Philadelphia’s leading receiver with 32 receptions for 387 yards and two touchdowns. Nelson Agholor has 16 catches for 266 yards and three scores and Alshon Jeffery has added 246 yards on 20 receptions and two touchdowns.
Defensive end Brandon Graham has spearheaded the Eagles’ defensive charge with 3.5 sacks and fellow defensive end Chris Long has added a pair. Cornerback Jalen Mills has 31 total tackles to lead the team, and has contributed eight passes defensed and one interception.
Carolina counters with the league’s third-rated defense, led by all-everything inside linebacker Luke Kuechly with 42 total tackles, and interception and a forced fumble. Julius Peppers, the ageless wonder, already had 5.5 sacks to his credit from his defensive end position, and fellow line mates Mario Addison and Kawann Short have added three sacks each.
Quarterback Cam Newton has finally found his footing after a slow start, and has looked the part of a former league MVP through the last two weeks. Newton has completed 99 of 145 passes for 1,237 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. While his quarterback rating currently stands at 98.5, he posted a rating of 130.8 in a win over New England two weeks ago, and followed that up with a 141.8 rating in last week’s win over Detroit.
Newton has spread the ball around to a quartet of receivers, led by rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has 27 receptions for 237 yards and one score to go with his 34 carries for 96 yards on the ground.
Devin Funchess has caught 24 passes for 269 yards and three scores and Kelvin Benjamin has contributed 17 receptions for 272 yards and a touchdown. Ed Dickson has 11 catches for 271 yards, including a long of 64 yards last week against the Lions.
Whatever the outcome, this game is likely to be close right down to the wire, with a slight advantage going to the home team.
How to watch Eagles at Panthers
Date: Thursday, October 12, 2017
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV Channel: CBS and NFLN
Radio: 102.5 The Fan Online Radio Stream. Westwood One Sports will air the game across the country. Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Tony Boselli (analyst) will call the action and Scott Graham will host pregame and halftime shows.
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (color analyst), Tracy Wolfson and Jay Feely (sideline reporters).
Odds: Carolina: -3 1/2; over/under: 46 (Bovada)