The Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) are back at Lincoln Financial Field to take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX). Philly is coming off a dominating 34-13 victory over NFC East rival, the New York Giants last Thursday.
The Eagles were clicking on all cylinders and showed flashes of last year’s Super Bowl team. Quarterback Carson Wentz was efficient and got tremendous help from the running back tandem of Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood.
In addition to the offense, the Eagles’ defense did a great job of applying pressure to Giants quarterback Eli Manning, which led to an early turnover.
The Carolina Panthers, however, are coming off a disappointing 23-17 road loss to the Washington Redskins. Carolina had three turnovers in the first half, which ultimately led to their demise. Rookie wide receiver and Philly native D.J. Moore had two of those ill-faded turnovers.
This will be Carolina’s third straight game against an NFC East opponent as they defeated the Giants, 33-31, thanks to a 63-yard field goal by kicker Graham Gano in Week 6.
Here are three things to watch out for in this week’s matchup:
1. Containing Cam
The last time the Eagles’ defense faced a mobile quarterback it did not go well. Back in Week 5, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had his best game of the young season, leading the Titans to an overtime victory over the Eagles.
Mariota did it both with his legs and arm, which gave Philly fits throughout the entire game. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 344 yards two touchdowns and an interception. Mariota also 46 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
Therefore, the Eagles must make Newton uncomfortable because he can do everything that Mariota does but better. The 6-foot-5 Newton is a threat to take off any time from the pocket, but can also throw it around the field.
This season, he is completing a career-high 65.9 percent of his passes for 1,158 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions. On the ground, Newton already has 208 yards and three touchdowns.
In last season’s contest, where the Eagles defeated the Panthers 28-23, Newton did not play well. The Eagles forced him into three interceptions and made him the only rushing threat, shutting down Carolina’s running backs.
2. Protecting Wentz
On the flip side, while the Eagles’ defense has to contain Newton, their offensive line must do an impeccable job of protecting Wentz. Philly’s offensive line has given up 13 sacks in the last four games, which is not good.
However, in last week’s game against the Giants, they actually held their own, only allowing one sack. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles’ offensive line is now ranked 25th in pass protection with an adjusted rack rate of 8.1 percent.
This now puts them in the same class with the Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. It is not a class you want to be a part of. But the good news is that Philly’s o-line should catch a break, despite the possibility of not having left tackle Jason Peters on Sunday. The veteran offensive lineman is dealing with a torn bicep injury, which came to light after the Eagles’
Carolina’s defense only has 12 sacks through five games, but they still have guys like Julius Peppers, Dontari Poe, and Kawann Short on the defensive line that can wreak havoc.
3. Clement-Smallwood Part 2
Last week was the Eagles’ first game without running back Jay Ajayi. The veteran back suffered a torn ACL against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5, leaving Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams to pick up the workload.
While on the surface, the task looked daunting, both Clement and Smallwood stepped up big time against the Giants. Clement had 69 total yards on 14 touches and a touchdown, while Smallwood led the way with 51 yards on 18 carries.
However, the question now is can they repeat what they did last Thursday? It is definitely a possibility as Carolina’s defense is giving up 102.4 yards per game on the ground, which is good for 15th in the NFL.
Last Sunday, the Panthers allowed Adrian Peterson to rush for 97 yards on 17 carries. But in Week 5 against the Giants, they held rookie Saquon Barkley in check.
Carolina’s run defense is suspect this season and hopefully, for the Eagles’ sake, they can get a few good runs on Sunday. If they can do this successfully, it will open up things for Wentz and the passing offense.