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Carolina Panthers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview and Prediction


The Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles, two teams in desperate need of a win with head coaches squarely on the hot seat, get together for “Monday Night Football” at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Panthers (2-8) have lost seven of their last eight games, while the Eagles (3-7) have dropped six in a row. Carolina’s Ron Rivera and Philadelphia’s Andy Reid are both under a lot of pressure to finish the season with some sort of positive momentum as it relates to their job security, although in the case of Reid it may not matter how his team performs these final six games.

When the Carolina Panthers have the ball:
What a difference a year has made for Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and the AP’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last season, Newton has not enjoyed the same amount of success during his second year in the league. Through 10 games of his rookie season, Newton had accounted for 21 (12 passing, 9 rush) total touchdowns. That number has dropped to 13 (9 passing, 4 rush) this season, although he has cut down on his interceptions (14 to 10). Overall, Newton is the NFL’s 26th-rated passer and is averaging 240 passing yards per game, one of the reasons why the Panthers are 23rd in total offense (334 ypg). In his defense, Newton has not gotten much help from the running game, as he also is the leading rusher for the league’s 16th-ranked rushing attack. Scoring has been a problem for the offense as well, averaging 18.4 points per game (27th). This is one of the main reasons why the Panthers have lost six games by six points or less.

Philadelphia’s defense has done a solid job for most of the season, but the offense’s turnover issues and some key injuries have taken their toll more recently. Overall, the Eagles are ninth in the NFL in total defense, giving up 340.3 yards per game. They have fared better against the pass (12th) versus the run (18th), but are 25th in the league in scoring defense (25.2 ppg). Getting pressure (16 sacks) and generating turnovers (7 INTs, 3 fumbles) have not helped this unit, especially lately. The Eagles have surrendered 26 or more points in each of its last five games, all losses.

When the Philadelphia Eagles have the ball:
On paper, Philadelphia’s offense looks fairly solid. The Eagles are 14th in the NFL in total offense (361.7 ypg), 11th in rushing (121.6 ypg) and 15th in passing (240.1 ypg). A closer look, however, also reveals that they are next-to-last in scoring offense (16.2 ppg), have given up the third-most sacks (33), and have turned the ball over an NFC-worst 24 times. Quarterback Michael Vick has been the main culprit when it comes to the turnovers, having coughed it up 14 times (9 INTs, 5 fumbles) himself. However, the lack of protection from his offensive line has taken its toll on him and his health, as he won’t be playing tonight due to a concussion he sustained against Dallas two weeks ago. Rookie Nick Foles will make his second straight start in Vick’s place. Foles struggled last week (204-0-2) in his first career start and will be joined in the backfield by fellow rookie Bryce Brown. Brown will get the start at running back in place of LeSean McCoy, who also is out due to a concussion he got last week in the loss to Washington. A Foles-Brown backfield is not what the Eagles’ coaching staff or their fans were expecting to see at any point entering this season.

Carolina is 15th in the league in total defense, yielding 350.7 yards per game. The Panthers are 17th against the pass and 19th against the run. They are giving up 24.3 points per game, but have surrendered an average of 31.2 per contest in their last two outings, both losses. The Panthers have 26 sacks on the season and have forced a total of 15 (8 INTs, 7 fumbles) turnovers.

Key Factor:
Even though Vick and McCoy have not had the strongest seasons statistically, they are still huge parts of the Eagles’ offense. For example, combined they are responsible for 87 percent of the team’s rushing offense this season. Neither Vick nor McCoy will be in action tonight, and it’s not fair to expect Foles and Brown to match their production. The Eagles also appear to have the look of a team that’s thrown in the towel, as they have lost their last four games by 13 or more points.

Panthers 24, Eagles 17