- Amazingly enough, a win tonight will put the Eagles in as the 6th seed in the NFC playoffs with games to go.
- Jeff Garcia has won past 2 starts vs. Panthers & has 300+ yards in 3 of past 5 meetings
- Jake Delhomme has won his past 2 starts on Monday Night Football.
- Brian Westbrook, ranks 6th in NFL with 1,369 scrimmage yards (839 rush, 530 rec.) and is going for his 4th straight 100-yard game.
- Steve Smith leads NFL with 100.4 receiving yards per game.
The #1 priority here has to be protecting the passer. The Panthers have 28 sacks as a team this year(one less than the Eagles) and DE Julius Peppers leads the NFL with 11. So far, they've done a good job protecting Garcia allowing only one sack in 72 pass attempts. I also think it's going to be important to stretch the field with a deep ball or two. The Panthers are likely going to stack up the line to stop the run and the dink and dunk passing game.
Otherwise, the plan should be pretty much the same as last week. Run the ball and limit mistakes. In the past 5 games the Eagles have run for 710 yards averaging 5.2 yards a carry as a team. In fact, the Eagles are #2 in the NFL in yards per carry. Carolina has been pretty good against the run, but they've showed inconsistency in that dept. They've allowed 4 100 yard rushers this year so far. Garcia is going to have to turn in another turnover free performance if the Eagles are going to be successful.
Eagles defense vs Panthers offense
Offensively, the Panthers have not been great. It seems that for some reason Jake Delhomme has lost alot of whatever magic he had in the past few seasons. He has a passer rating of 78.7 and has turned the ball over 13 times(9 INT, 4 Fumbles lost).
3rd downs have absolutely killed the Panthers this year. They are 2nd worst in the NFL in converting 1st downs this year. Lucky for them there are only 6 teams that have given up for 1st downs than the Eagles defense. A huge part of the reason the Eagles have given up so many 1st downs has been their absolutely porous run defense that has given up an incredible 912 yards in it's past 5 games. Clearly the Panthers will do their best to exploit this. It's been reported that the Matt McCoy has been benched in favor or rookie Omar Gaither. Obviously it's an attempt to bolster the run defense, whether Gaither can do it or not is another question. He's definitely bigger and stronger than McCoy.
There's not a whole lot of secrecy as to who the Panthers' greatest weapon is. It's clearly WR Steve Smith, who for my money is the best WR in the game right now. He's averaging 100 yards a game this year which is the best in the NFL. The good news here is that the Eagles greatest strength on defense has been against the pass. They are actually 3rd in the NFL in that category. The problem is that with the run defense being so bad, lately teams haven't even bothered to test the Eagles D through the air.
One more interesting note is that both Carolina's punt and kick return units are ranked dead last in the leauge. In a game that looks to be a low scoring affair, could that be a factor?
I think the defense turns in a better effort than last week(which means they turn in any effort at all), but a big play from Steve Smith is the deciding factor. Eagles 16, Panthers 17. Another note is that today is my birthday... maybe the Eagles could pull one out as a gift?