Thursday Night Football brings us an NFC battle of the 4-1 teams. But who'll be cashing in at the Bank of America Stadium? Neil Harvey takes a closer look...
"Carolina's 34-13 Week Three loss at home to the Saints should have set alarm bells ringing all over the place. This was not an anomaly. It was a glimpse of the truth"
Philadelphia Eagles @ Carolina Panthers
Friday October 13th, 01:25 BST
TV - Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Panthers are fake news!
Allow me to cut right to the chase. I believe this Carolina team is overrated, that it's flattering to deceive, that it's a sheep in wolves' clothing. Take your pick. Are they a bad team? No. But are they as good as their 4-1 record suggests? Absolutely not!
Just one defeat in five games represents a great start for both these sides. But the reailty is that Philly have had it much tougher than Carolina. I mean just look at who the Panthers have played so far. All five of their opponents rank in the league's bottom ten at defending the pass. So I warn you now. Beware the plaudits being bestowed on Cam Newton and his giant receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. What glitters is sometimes fool's gold.
Superman can't save them
'Superman', or 'Sexist' as he should perhaps now be called, looked good while picking his way through the NFL's worst defenses. But it's noteworthy that Cam Newton couldn't exploit what is an extremely poor New Orleans secondary. Carolina's 34-13 Week Three loss at home to the Saints should have set alarm bells ringing. This was not an anomaly. It was a glimpse of the truth. The reason I've stressed this point is that, upon first inspection, it would be easy to see that Philadelphia have one of the most porous secondaries in the NFL and think that Carolina are going to light them up. But as I've explained...perhaps things aren't all they seem.
And Philadelphia not being savaged by the Panthers' passing game is a key issue, because they certainly shouldn't be hurt by the run. Don't get your hopes up on Cam Newton scampering wild, with the Eagles conceding just 10 yards a game to running QBs. And with Philly ranked second in the league against running backs, Jonathan Stewart looks no match for them.
Note: Christian McCaffrey looks like he has a lot to offer, his threat appears to be largely as a receiver though. Indeed, for McCaffrey fans waiting on their man to show what he can really do, I'd say this could be his chance to pick up some big yards after the catch.
Options out wide
Philly's ground offense will consist of LeGarrette Blount, who's actually a boulder of granite disguised as a running back, ploughing into what's been a fairly solid Panthers defensive line. The Eagles' best chance of victory though will lie in the hands of quarterback Carson Wentz, who'll be looking for Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith out wide.
Any one of them could exploit a Panthers defense that's conceded an average of more than 30 points a game over the past three weeks. Jeffrey in particular has yet come to life since signing from Chicago. But he's super talented, should be settled into his routes by now, and could break out at any moment. And then of course there's tight end Zach Ertz, who leads the team in touchdowns, with three. I'd shy away from him though, as the Panthers have performed well against tight ends to date.
Philadelphia look good value as underdogs. Having scored at least 20 points in every game, they can put up more than that against a Panthers D that's looked leaky of late. Alshon Jeffrey is due a big game and can hit pay dirt first. While for Carolina, I like the look of McCaffrey, who scored his first TD last week, to put up some healthy receiving numbers out of the backfield.
5pts Philadephia to beat Carolina @ [2.64]
3pts Philadelphia total points over 20.5 @ [2.0]
1pt Alshon Jeffrey to score 1st TD @ [12.0]
3pts McCaffrey rushing and receiving yards Over 67.5 @ 5/6
3pts Alshon Jeffrey receiving yards Over 53.5 @ 5/6
3pts Jonathan Stewart rushing yards Under 48.5 @ 5/6