The Eagles will travel down to North Carolina Sunday to take on the 3-1 Panthers.
Sitting at 1-3, Philly desperately needs a W to keep pace in the NFC East. Bouncing back from 1-3 is hard enough, rebounding from 1-4 is damn near impossible. Carolina, on the other hand, got off to a great start in 2021, winning their first three games before suffering their first loss last week to Dallas.
Both teams have something to prove heading into this matchup. Here’s everything you need to to know prior to kickoff on Sunday.
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OUT: RT Lane Johnson (personal matter)
IR: OG Brandon Brooks, TE Jason Croom, T/G Jack Driscoll, DE Brandon Graham, TE Tyree Jackson, CB Josiah Scott, OG Isaac Seumalo, WR Michael Walker, S K’Von Wallace
Lane Johnson is the only player listed as out for Sunday’s matchup. We assume it’s the same personal matter that held him out of last week’s contest, so we’re hoping for the best with Johnson and whatever he has going on in the background.
Jordan Mailata will suit up for this one after missing the past two games, which should help mitigate Johnson’s absence.
OUT: OT Cam Erving (neck), LB Shaq Thompson (foot)
DOUBTFUL: RB Christian McCaffrey (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Yetur Gross-Matos
IR: S Juston Burris, OG Pat Elflein, LS Thomas Fletcher, DB Myles Hartsfield, CB Jaycee Horn, CB Troy Pride Jr.
Carolina has a handful of key injuries on their plate this week. Cam Erving and Shaq Thompson will both be out, and running back Christian McCaffrey is unlikely to play despite practicing in a limited capacity this week.
Due to the nature of hamstring injuries, seeing McCaffrey actually play would be a bit of a surprise, but he is a freak of nature so anything is possible.
Biggest offensive threat to Philly: D.J. Moore
Assuming McCaffrey can’t go, Carolina’s next best offensive weapon is wideout D.J. Moore. The fourth-year receiver is coming into his own this year, hauling in 30 receptions for 398 yards and three touchdowns through four games. He’s accounted for 35.5% of Carolina’s passing production so far this year.
Where Moore can really hurt a defense in on his run after the catch ability. On the year, he’s averaged 5.4 YAC per reception and he’s totaled 163 YAC. The Eagles defense has had trouble stopping pretty much everything this season, and last week they were absolutely torched by Kansas City’s top pass catcher, Tyreek Hill. Hill racked up 11 receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns against Jonathan Gannon’s group.
Darius Slay will likely get the Moore assignment for most of the day. He’s done a fine job in coverage this season — the only game he surrendered a passer rating higher than 70 when targeted was in Week 3. Getting pressure on Sam Darnold would help Slay in his assignment as well, and they should be able to do that facing this subpar Carolina offensive line.
Moore isn’t as dynamic as some of the other weapons the Eagles have seen so far this year, but he can certainly produce at a high level if Philly doesn’t prioritize stopping him.
Biggest area of weakness for Carolina’s offense: Offensive line
Without Cam Erving, the struggling Panthers offensive line will be facing even more adversity in this contest. They allowed five sacks last week and a total of 15 pressures. The Eagles defensive front has been underwhelming through four games, but this could be just what the doctor ordered to get this line back on track.
On the year, Carolina has allowed with fifth-most sacks in the league with 11, averaging 2.75 sacks given up per game. While Javon Hargrave has been a menace to opposing offensive lines all season, guys like Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, and Derek Barnett have underperformed.
The Eagles are so weak at linebacker, so if the defensive line fails to show up again, they’ll continue to get gashed in the running game and Darnold will be able to pick apart their cover 2 defensive look. Getting pressure on Darnold is key in this one. There’s no reason the Eagles defensive line shouldn’t be able to dominate this matchup.
Biggest defensive threat to Philly: Defensive line
Carolina’s defense has been stout this season. They’ve only allowed 626 yards through the air this year, second-lowest in the NFL. And while it’s easy to point to their young secondary as the clear strength based on that stat, it’s their defensive line that’s predicated their defensive dominance.
Carolina’s 37.8% pressure rate is the highest in the league, and their 14 sacks is the second-most. They throw a lot of different looks at opposing quarterbacks, with a handful of different personnel groupings. They also throw a ton of blitzes at teams, blitzing on 41.7% of their defensive snaps, highest of any team in football.
The Eagles offensive line will have their work cut out for them in this matchup. Getting Jordan Mailata back should help their cause, but by no means will it make this matchup easy.
Philly enters this week desperate for a win and they have the tools to give a team like Carolina fits. Philly’s defensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage, and their offense should be able to at least keep up with Carolina until the final whistle.
If the Eagles manage to get pressure on Darnold and force him into some timely mistakes, they can win this game. And that’s exactly what I think they’ll do. Nick Sirianni will finally focus on running the ball consistently and the Eagles defense will have their best outing since Brandon Graham went down with his season ending injury.
I’m going with the Birds in this one, 28-24. Go Birds.