In order to preview the Birds’ matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Cat Scratch Reader. The great Bradley Smith (@bdubsmitty) kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let's take a look at the answers. For my responses to Bradley’s questions, go check out his post over at CSR.
1 - I wasn’t sure what to make of the Panthers heading into this season. Now they’re sitting at 4-1, which is pretty good, but their one loss came by 21 points at home against a Saints team that traditionally isn’t good on the road. So what’s the deal with this Carolina team? How good are they?
I think the Panthers are more like the team we've seen the past two weeks (at NE and DET) than the team who lost to the Saints at home. The Panthers offense looks to be finally on the same page, which could be dangerous for other teams in the league. Cam Newton missed most of training camp and all but one drive of the preseason recovering from shoulder surgery, so it looks like that he's finally shaken off the rust and is back to the 2015 Cam who was the league's MVP.
2 - What’s your confidence level in Cam Newton right now?
Right now it's through the roof. He has looked like one of the league's best quarterbacks over the last two weeks and appears to have finally shaken off the rust from his lack of work in the preseason.
3 - The Panthers seem to be dealing with a number of injuries. Can you describe what’s going on with those and how it impacts the team?
The two biggest injuries the Panthers have dealt with are Pro Bowlers Greg Olsen and Ryan Kalil. The offense typically uses Olsen as the primary receiving target, so they've definitely missed his presence on the field. Ed Dickson has been mostly okay in his absence, but his stats are inflated by his inexplicable dominating performance last Sunday against Detroit. Kalil has missed the last four games with an undisclosed neck injury. He woke up the morning of the Week 2 game against Buffalo with a 'sore neck' and hasn't played since. Tyler Larsen has filled in admirably in his absence, but the Panthers need Kalil's leadership more than anything.
4 - What’s one matchup that really favors the Eagles? And one that really favors the Panthers?
I think both defensive lines should have the advantage over their respective offensive linesmen. The winner of this game will be the team who can avoid becoming one-dimensional on offense.
5 - A lot of Eagles fans wanted Christian McCaffrey to fall to Philly in the 2017 NFL Draft. How’s he been doing? How do you feel about his outlook?
McCaffrey has struggled running the ball, but that's mostly because the Panthers' offensive line hasn't given him much to work with. He's been much better receiving out of the backfield and while split out wide, and as a decoy for defenses to watch for while other players pick up big chunks of yards. The Panthers' 3rd running back Fozzy Whittaker scored a 40 yard touchdown on a screen play primarily because the entire Patriots defense shifted their focus to McCaffrey on the opposite side of the field. Going forward I think he'll be fine, especially when he learns how to avoid contact from defenders.
Bonus: Score prediction? Who wins this game and why?
The Panthers will jump out to a 21-3 lead, causing Panthers fans to get excited about the prospect of a win. The Eagles will get back into it late and make it close, causing Panthers fans to hate life, and then the Panthers will make a game-saving play to salvage the win. Panthers 21 - Eagles 20.