By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
The Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers have met 12 times. The Eagles lead the series 7-5, but lost the most recent meeting in 2018, 21-17.
What to know about the Panthers:
Maybe the curse of Adam Gase is a true and real thing. Sam Darnold is looking good in Carolina. Offensively it looks like the Panthers will be without star running back Christian McCaffrey again. Overall the offense is fringe top ten across most categories, but they certainly have weapons to make things tough on a struggling Eagles defense. What is most worrisome? The Panther love to control time of possession, currently the sixth best in time of possession. The Eagles offense has struggled in that department and having the defense out longer then it has to be isn't a great combination.
The Panthers passing defense is seeing the second fewest attempts against and giving up the second fewest total yards. They have allowed a completion percentage of 58.7% by opposing quarterbacks. As much as Sirianni loves to throw the football and ignore Miles Sanders, there may need to be a shift in how he runs the offense.
Overall the Panthers defense is fairly strong, despite the rushing defense being exploited last week. They are allowing the 2nd shortest time of possession for opposing offenses and the second lowest amount of plays run per drive. Which also equates to top five defense in points and yards allowed per drive. The Eagles offense will have to bring their A game with a mix of run and pass plus effectiveness.
Panthers player to Watch:
The Panthers are likely to be without Christian McCaffrey again this week. Good thing because the Eagles rushing defense has been exploited. In McCaffrey's absence, even before the injury, one of the Panthers best players has been wide receiver DJ Moore. He has seen over ten targets in three straight weeks. He creates a lot after the catch and is used all over the formation. The Eagles defense will need to account for him at all times to ensure he doesn't take advantage of a mismatch in the middle of the field like Tyreek Hill did last week.
What to know about the Eagles:
Nick Sirianni has frustratingly deprived the Eagles offense and fans of their greatest asset. The Eagles rushing attack headlined by Miles Sanders ranks first in yards per attempt. The tandem of Kenneth Gainwell and Sanders also ranks ninth in rushing yards despite getting the sixth least amount of attempts. The lack of running game is the driving force behind the Eagles offense owning the 20th ranked time of possession. Also managing to only score on 37.5% of offensive drives, also good for 20th in the league.
If Sirianni took notes last week on the Panthers in their game against the Cowboys, the biggest take away should be to run the ball! In the first true test for the Panthers defense, Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard combined to drop 210 rushing yards on 30 attempts and a touchdown. Sanders and Gainwell could be able to do similar damage, if Sirianni gives them the opportunities.
As pointed out above, the Eagles aerial attack is going from facing one of the worst to facing one of the best. It's effectiveness will be challenged this week if they plan to continue following the trend of passing 36 times a game. Outside of Devonta Smith, it was great to see Ertz and Goedert get more involved last week. Besides Smith the two tight ends do remain the most effective and consistent receiving weapons. Watkins should be leveraged more, because as his 21.9 yards per reception depicts, he is a big play waiting to happen and can significantly alter drives.
As for Jalen Hurts, he has been better than expected. His completion percentage is up significantly. He's 10th in the league in yards. His interception rate is top ten in the league. He is doing all this behind four different starting offensive line combinations already! Likely to become the fifth different this weekend.
Defensively the Eagles are showing major cracks. Fletcher Cox is catching a lot of flack for his lack of output. The linebackers are a complete mess all around. Steven Nelson has been overall a letdown giving up significant plays in every game. The penalties have been back breaking. Plus the Eagles are giving up the fifth worst third down conversion rate in the NFL. The offense isn't helping the defense. The defense isn't helping the offense forcing only two turnovers. There is a lot to be addressed defensively come the offseason and we are only four games in.
Eagles player to watch:
I just addressed the overall lack of pressure being created by Fletcher Cox, but beyond Javon Hargrave that is also true of the edges. The Panthers rank in the bottom ten of the league in pass blocking efficiency and have given up the 11th most pressures. It's time for Cox to back up the talk. For Sweat to start proving his worth after getting the recent big deal. And for Barnett to earn his second contract instead of another penalty. I'm not picking just one player to watch, I'm looking at every one not named Javon Hargrave on the defensive line.
Despite a lot of negatives throughout I think this is as good of time as ever to take advantage of the Carolina Panthers. No Shaq Thompson, likely no CMC, already down their top cornerback Jaycee Horn. I am giving the Eagles a 27-24 win over the Panthers this week! Offense starts to turn yards into points and the defense will do just enough after Nick Sirianni’s blow up at the defensive staff Monday.