PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-1)
at CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-1)
Bank of America Stadium Ė Charlotte, NC
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
Line: Carolina -3.0, Total: 46.0
Both the Eagles and the Panthers will be trying to stay hot when they face one another in Carolina on Thursday.
Thursday Night Football doesnít necessarily have the best reputation in the world, but this weekís game is likely to be a good one. Philadelphia and Carolina have been two of the stronger teams in the league thus far, and one of these two will improve to an impressive 5-1 on Thursday. Last week, the Eagles won their third straight in a 34-7 beatdown over the Cardinals. It was the second straight game that Philadelphia covered in and the teamís only loss this season came against an undefeated Kansas City group. The Panthers, meanwhile, have now won-and-covered in two straight road games after defeating the Lions 27-24 last week. They stunned the Patriots the week before and are starting to resemble a team that could contend in the NFC. That is why this matchup is going to be so intriguing. Both of these teams have looked like they belong in the conversation as far as the elite teams in the NFC go. One of them will, however, stand out by earning a victory here. One trend that favors Carolina here is the fact that the team is 10-2 ATS after covering the spread in two of its past three games over the past three seasons. The Panthers are also, however, a lousy 0-6 ATS after allowing 99 or fewer rushing yards in two straight games over the past two seasons.
The Eagles are coming off of a dominant victory over the Cardinals and QB Carson Wentz (1,362 yards, 10 TD, 3 INT) is really starting to look like an elite player in this league. Wentz threw for 304 yards with four touchdowns and only one pick in that game, and that was against a pretty solid Cardinals secondary. Heíll now be counted on to lead his team to a win in a tough road game on Thursday, but he should be up for the task. Heíll just need to make sure that he is giving both WR Alshon Jeffery (20 rec, 246 yards, 2 TD) and TE Zach Ertz (32 rec, 387 yards, 2 TD) chances to make plays here. Jeffery hasnít had any 100-yard games for the Eagles yet, but that is surely coming soon. Ertz, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the best tight ends in football and should be able to have his way with the Panthers on Thursday. As for the Eaglesí running game, the team will count on a number of backs in this one. RB LeGarrette Blount (323 yards, 1 TD) is, however, the guy that should lead them in carries. He has been excellent between the tackles this season, and both him and Wentz in the same backfield make it nearly impossible for opposing defenses to stop Philly in short yardage situations. On defense, the Eagles will need to be ready to defend the deepball here. Newton has thrown it well all season, but Philly can ensure that this game is close by making sure big players are avoided.
As previously mentioned, QB Cam Newton (1,237 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT) has been throwing the ball extremely well recently. Over the past two weeks, Newton has thrown for 671 yards with six touchdowns and only one pick. Heíll now face an Eagles secondary that is definitely prone to giving up some big plays. If Newton can continue to throw the ball well then the sky is truly the limit for this Panthers team. And thereís little reason to believe that Newton will start to struggle now. He has a very good group of weapons, as WR Kelvin Benjamin (17 rec, 272 yards, 1 TD), RB Christian McCaffrey (96 yards rushing; 27 rec, 237 yards, 1 TD receiving) and WR Devin Funchess (24 rec, 269 yards, 3 TD) are all playing extremely well for Newton this season. Itís going to be tough for Philadelphia to figure out who to cover, but McCaffrey is a guy that has demanded a lot of attention this season. Itís a huge part of the reason that Newton has bounced back in such a big way, as teams constantly fear McCaffrey in the passing game. That opens up shots downfield to guys like Benjamin and Funchess. On defense, the Panthers will also be focused on stopping the deepball. Wentz has been absolutely destroying teams with home run balls and the Panthers canít afford to let them connect here.