This is the next part in our series of previews of the Eagles 2009 opponents. Joining us for this feature is Dave Schwab, who writes about the Eagles at his site Eagles Lincs.
It's finally about to start for real! The Eagles kick off their 09/10 campaign on the road against a team who was among the best in the NFC last year. Somewhat surprisingly, the Eagles head into the game as 1-2 point favorites.
Dave's full analysis after the jump.
Week 1- Carolina Panthers
The moment we have all been waiting for is almost upon us as the Philadelphia Eagles get set to start their march toward a Super Bowl by opening up the 2009 regular season on the road against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, September 13th in a 1:00 P.M. start. Ever since the final gun of last season’s disappointing loss to Arizona in the NFC Championship game, the Birds have been gearing up for another run at a title. A win on the road against a team that went 12-4 last season would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Last year, Carolina’s season ended with a disastrous performance against the Cardinals in a divisional playoff game. Panther QB Jake Delhomme played probably the worst game in his 11 year career as he committed six turnovers, including five interceptions in the 33-13 loss. Carolina was the only team in the league that had a perfect 8-0 record at home during the 2008 regular season, but they completely imploded in this home playoff game. The effects of that loss have already seemed to carry over into this season as the Panthers went 0-4 in the preseason only generating an average of a little over 14 points a game and less than 300 yards of total offense in those four losses. This was their first winless preseason in nine years as turnovers and mistakes have plagued them so far this year. They are going to have to shake of the effects of last season’s shocking loss and this season’s slow start if they are have any chance against the Eagles in the opener.
This past off season, the Panther’s rewarded Jake Delhomme with a contract extension and a pay raise. You have to question how much he has left to warrant this in light of his recent performance in big games. They will rely heavily on their running game with All Pro RB DeAngelo Williams who rushed for over 1500 yards in 2008. They also have Jonathan Stewart to compliment Williams as he almost rushed for 1000 yards on his own. If the Eagles can find a way to shut these two down, they can force Delhomme to beat them with his arm by throwing the ball to his favorite receiver Steve Smith and other wide out Mushin Muhammad. They definitely have some weapons on offense, but the key to shutting the Panther’s down still revolves around disrupting Delhomme as much as possible.
Defensively, Carolina is still led by All Pro DE Julius Peppers. Peppers was almost a no show as he threatened to hold out in a contract dispute, but the Panthers signed him to a one year multi million deal to keep the peace. So far this preseason they have been effective against the pass, but have given up an average of 133 yards on the ground which could open the door to a big day for Brian Westbrook who will finally see his first action of the year after being sidelined from off season ankle surgery. Rookie RB LeSean McCoy who has filled in admirably in Westbrook’s absence should also see significant action in Sunday’s game.
So far this year Carolina does not appear to be the team that went 12-4 last year, tying the Giants for the best record in the NFC. They have been out of sync on offense and struggling somewhat on defense. The Eagles should be able to take advantage of this fact and grab a much needed opening day win on the road.
Check out more of Dave's insights at Eagles Lincs.