Panthers-Eagles: 13 things to know about Week 10's MNF game (2024)

When the Philadelphia Eagles host the Carolina Panthers to wrap up the 10th week of the season, we’ll be witnessing two breakout division winners from 2013 that are experiencing some nasty growing pains in 2014.

The Eagles still lead the shaky NFC East, but quarterback Nick Foles is now out indefinitely with fractured clavicle. One of the game’s best offensive lines has been torn apart by injuries and reigning rushing champion LeSean McCoy took six weeks to hit the 100-yard mark and is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry.

The defense has been a pleasant surprise, which explains why they’re 6-2. But Philly enters the second half of the season with some major concerns regarding the quarterback position, pass coverage, turnovers and takeaways.

Still, Philly’s problems pale in comparison to Carolina’s.

The Panthers, who went 12-4 last season, have just one win in their last seven games. Also working behind a greatly depleted offensive line and with little support from his backs and receivers, quarterback Cam Newton is stuck in perhaps the biggest rut of his career.

The 2011 No. 1 overall pick is on pace to set career lows when it comes to completion percentage and passer rating, and his last three performances have been particularly tough to watch.

Cam Newton's last three games
Weeks 7-9TotalRank
W-L record0-3T-32nd
Completion percentage48.235th
Among QBs with at least 27 pass attempts (35 qualifiers)

It doesn’t help that the Carolina defense has fallen off a cliff. A defense that ranked second in the NFL last season is really hurting without top pass rusher Greg Hardy, who remains inactive while his domestic violence case is pending. Without Hardy and a few other important cogs from last year, they’re giving up 378.1 yards and 26.2 points per game, both of which ranked in the bottom 10 in the league headed into Week 10.

Despite being Jaguar- or Raider-level cold right now, the Panthers did enough early -- they started 3-2-1 before this three-game losing streak -- to still be in the thick of things in the comically bad NFC South.

Only the Saints have an edge on Carolina right now, and it's not a big one. So with this season salvageable for Newton and Co. and with Philly trying to hold Dallas off, this is a prime-time game that carries quite a lot of importance entering the home stretch of the regular season.

Let's elaborate while breaking down the matchup in both serious and non-serious fashion. Here are 13 things to know:.

1. Mark Sanchez gets one more shot

Panthers-Eagles: 13 things to know about Week 10's MNF game (1)

Sanchez is making his first start in 680 days. The 2009 fifth overall pick out of USC has drifted far from his “Sanchize” days with the New York Jets, but he’s only 27 years old and may be in the right place at the right time when it comes to reviving his career.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is considered to be an offensive mastermind who gets the most out of his players. Last season, Kelly helped Foles, McCoy, offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper experience career years. Now he’s got a talented pivot in Sanchez, whom he handpicked as insurance for Foles.

"I enjoy Coach Kelly and how excited he is about offensive football, how he's constantly searching for a competitive edge, how he wants ideas from players, from coaches,” said Sanchez last week, per’s Phil Sheridan. “He never feels like it has to be his idea, although it's his offense. He wants input. It's been so fun to be a part of."

There are reasons for concern. Sanchez posted the second-lowest qualifying passer rating in the league when he was last a starter in 2012, and has been a turnover machine for the majority of his career. During his four years as a starter with the Jets, he was the NFL’s lowest-rated qualifying passer.

The NFL's turnover leaders, 2009-2012
PlayerInterceptionsFumbles lostTurnovers
1. Mark Sanchez692089
2. Eli Manning701888
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick641579
4. Jay Cutler631477
5. Philip Rivers571976

And he did throw two picks while nearly being picked off on a couple other occasions last week.

Remember this Mark Sanchez from New York?

And this one?

But Sanchez never had this type of support in New York. He didn’t have an offensive-minded head coach with more tricks up his sleeve than David Copperfield. He didn’t have a Pro Bowl running back like McCoy, a top receiver like Jeremy Maclin and a line loaded with All-Pro-caliber talent.

And it’s not as though Sanchez hasn’t delivered in his career anyway. He's been to a pair of AFC championship games and has nine touchdown passes and only three interceptions in six career playoff games, four of them wins.

Maybe there’s something to this whole quarterback instability thing for the Eagles. After all, they won the division when Jeff Garcia started the final six games in relief of Donovan McNabb in 2006. They won it again when Michael Vick started in relief of Kevin Kolb in 2010, and they won it last year with Foles taking the reins from Vick.

Could this be the fourth consecutive time in which the Eagles win the NFC East without their starting quarterback from Week 1? A Sanchez-fueled victory over Carolina on Monday night would confirm them as favorites to make it happen.

If he can make more throws like this:

And this:

Then he might have a chance to redeem himself while getting back to the playoffs with a different shade of green.

2. Replacing Mufasa

The Eagles actually lost two quarterbacks last week -- the guy who takes the snaps on offense as well as the metaphorical quarterback of their defense. That’s because veteran inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans tore his Achilles’ tendon on a fourth-quarter interception, ending his season.

Because this team has continued to win despite poor play from Foles, a lot of folks are declaring the loss of Ryans to be as bad, if not worse. That’s debatable, but the Eagles will definitely have a hole in the middle of their defense while trying to deal with Newton, veteran running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and tough-to-stop tight end Greg Olsen Monday night.

The 30-year-old Ryans had started all 41 regular-season and playoff games since joining the Eagles in 2012. He led the team in both snaps and tackles in 2012 and 2013 and had the team lead in defensive stops this season by a 28 percent margin.

NFC tackle leaders since 2012
Lavonte David281
Luke Kuechly274
James Laurinaitis252
DeMeco Ryans249
NaVorro Bowman245

Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho aren’t terrible backups and the Eagles are already benefiting from the return of weak-side linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who has been tearing it up but missed four games earlier this year with a calf injury.

Kendricks had a sack and a forced fumble in Week 9 against Houston and has been one of the team’s best all-around players when healthy.

But Ryans was a team leader and the guy who made all of the calls for Bill Davis’ defense.

"He's the true leader," Kelly said after the Houston game, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We talk about it all the time. He's Mufasa. He's our guy. When a warrior goes down, you pick up his shield and go play in honor of him, and I think that's what our guys did."

So I guess that makes Kendricks Simba and, in this case, Cam Newton Scar. A preview of Monday’s matchup:

3. What’s wrong with Cam?

Panthers-Eagles: 13 things to know about Week 10's MNF game (2)

Newton is mired in the worst slump of his career and is coming off quite possibly his worst performance since becoming a Panther in 2011. His 39.4 passer rating in Week 9 against the Saints was the lowest of his NFL career.

Newton had only one interception but completed just 10 of 28 passes. Entering Week 10, that completion percentage of 35.7 was the lowest single-game mark this year among quarterbacks who attempted at least 25 passes.

He was just 1 for 5 on passes beyond 20 yards and has been the league’s third-least accurate qualifying quarterback on those passes this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Among the six lowest-ranked players in that category, three have already been benched.

Lowest deep accuracy rates, 2014
Geno Smith17.4Benched
Eli Manning19.4Starter
Cam Newton23.1Starter
Derek Carr26.7Rookie starter
EJ Manuel27.8Benched
Jake Locker30.0Benched
Pro Football Focus

Two of those three terrible outings came at home and two were against so-so defenses from Green Bay and New Orleans. The Eagles defense isn’t necessarily elite, but Philly does rank second in the league with 20 sacks since Week 4 and has given up just 15 points per game the last three weeks.

So Newton could be in big trouble on the road Monday night, but that doesn’t mean he’ll deserve the lion’s share of the blame should things get ugly.

Last week, the Panthers started four undrafted offensive linemen, including two rookies on the left side. Veteran starters Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton retired in the offseason and they were without regular left tackle Byron Bell, who missed the New Orleans game due to a knee injury.

As a result, Newton was pressured on 50 percent of his 36 dropbacks against the Saints and has been under duress more often than all but six other quarterbacks this season, per Pro Football Focus.

Bell might be back Monday night, but he’s struggled anyway this season and the rest of the line is still hazardous to Newton’s health.

With Pro Bowler Steve Smith gone, his top receiver is a rookie (Kelvin Benjamin), who has little support from run-of-the-mill pass-catchers Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. He’s got a talented tight end in Greg Olsen, but with the running game averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, there’s really not a lot else going Newton’s way.

Lines with the most QB pressures allowed, 2014
Pro Football Focus

Still, Newton isn’t completely off the hook. Great quarterbacks -- the types who are drafted first overall -- have to be able to battle through situations like these. It’s not as though guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers haven’t dealt with similar issues at certain points in their Hall of Fame-worthy careers.

Partly because of more pressure, Newton’s footwork has been a mess. He’s had less time to get set, isn’t always planting and is rarely stepping into deep throws. As a result, he’s been over-throwing receivers like crazy.

This just can’t happen:

Sometimes it’s happening without pressure:

And sometimes it appears he’s sensing pressure that doesn’t exist:

Clearly, Newton has been shaken up by the fact everything around him is crumbling. But he has to get past that. The Panthers need their franchise quarterback to become Superman again, starting Monday night against an underrated Eagles defense.

4. What happened to the Panthers defense?

But Carolina’s struggles go beyond Newton and the offense. Without Hardy, who led the team with 15 sacks last year but has been inactive virtually the entire season due to those aforementioned legal troubles, the defense has literally gone from being one of the best in football to one of the worst.

Carolina Panthers: From best to bad
Panthers defense2013 (rank)2014 (rank)
Yards per game301.2 (2nd)378.1 (25th)
Points per game15.1 (2nd)26.2 (25th)
Yards per play4.9 (7th)5.9 (24th)
Third down percentage36 (12th)48 (31st)

Now, it’s not just a Hardy thing. Pass rushers are very important these days, but they’ve still got Charles Johnson, who had 23.5 sacks in 2012 and 2013. Don’t overlook the losses of defensive backs Mike Mitchell and Captain Munnerlyn, both of whom escaped from the cash-strapped Panthers in free agency.

Mitchell had a strong PFF grade of 3.5 in pass coverage and picked up 3.5 sacks from the safety position, while Munnerlyn also had 3.5 sacks, two picks and two defensive touchdowns.

Munnerlyn’s replacement, Antoine Cason, has allowed catches on 81.8 percent of the passes thrown his way. That’s the third-highest rate in the NFL, according to PFF, which helps explain why it appears the veteran was benched during the second half of that Week 9 loss to New Orleans. A pass interference penalty late in the first half might have been the breaking point there, as Cason’s been penalized nine times already this season.

They experimented with Charles Godfrey in the slot, and that failed miserably. And with Thomas DeCoud hurt they were forced to use rookie fourth-round pick Tre Boston at safety last week.

No wonder opposing quarterbacks are completing 69.3 percent of their passes against these guys. That was the second-highest average in the league entering Week 10.

It all bodes well for Sanchez, especially with Jeremy Maclin on fire (more on that later), but LeSean McCoy will likely have some holes, too. Despite the presence of reigning defensive player of the year Luke Kuechly in the middle, the Panthers have surrendered a league-high 4.8 yards per carry this season.

This is a bigger mystery, because in addition to Kuechly at middle linebacker, they have bright young stars Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short at defensive tackle. Yet they’ve been gashed over and over this year. Giovani Bernard had 137 yards on 18 carries against them in Week 6 and Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount combined for 265 yards on 31 carries vs. Carolina back in Week 3.

Again, not a bad week for Sanchez to make his starting debut.

5. Mismatch of the week: Carolina’s tackles vs. Philadelphia’s edge rushers

Panthers-Eagles: 13 things to know about Week 10's MNF game (3)

That offseason loss of Jordan Gross looms large. Sure, Bell is expected to return to the lineup, but he’s been horrible even when healthy during his first season at left tackle. In fact, PFF grades him as the least efficient pass blocker in the league among qualifying tackles.

Meanwhile, third-year lineman Nate Chandler has struggled with the transition from guard to Bell’s former right tackle spot. Those two have surrendered a combined nine sacks and 55 pressures, according to PFF.

Most pressure allowed by tackle duos, 2014
TeamTackle duosPressures
VikingsKalil and Loadholt63
ChargersDunlap and Fluker56
PanthersBell and Chandler55
ColtsCherilus and Castonzo53
Pro Football Focus

And now they run into one of the hottest pass rushes in football.

Brandon Graham isn’t even an every-down player, but he and starters Trent Cole and Connor Barwin all rank among PFF’s top 15 pass-rushing outside linebackers.

The 32-year-old Cole’s sack numbers don’t jump off the page (3.5 in eight games), but he’s been generating pressure at a superstar level of late, and Graham might be the best situational pass rusher in the league. In fact, in terms of pass-rushing productivity, PFF ranks him No. 1 among edge rushers league-wide.

NFL's most productive 3-4 OLB pass rushers
Brandon Graham2320
Justin Houston4317.2
James Harrison1714.3
Pernell McPhee3513.9
Connor Barwin2812.9
Ryan Kerrigan4012.1
Jason Babin1711.8
Barkevious Mingo1211.7
Elvis Dumervil2911.2
10. Trent Cole2911.1
Pro Football Focus

This Eagles defense struggled to get to the quarterback in 2012, 2013 and early in 2014, but everything’s clicking now with 20 sacks in their last five games.

Eagles: Sudden pressure
Time periodPressures per gameSacks per game
Previous 35 games17.02.0
Last 5 games25.24.0

This could get ugly.

6. Matchup of the week: McCoy vs. Kuechly

Panthers-Eagles: 13 things to know about Week 10's MNF game (4)

This one’s simple: Luke Kuechly was the 2013 defensive player of the year because he was a rangy monster, particularly in run defense. And McCoy led the NFL in rushing last season, mainly because he has an uncanny ability to cut back and embarrass pursuing linebackers.

Now that McCoy’s top two run-blocking guards are back -- center Jason Kelce returned last week from a groin injury and Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis (knee) is listed as probable -- there’s little reason to believe the 26-year-old All-Pro won’t push into the triple digits for the third time in four weeks Monday night.

But even with the Panthers struggling on defense, Kuechly entered Week 10 with the second-highest PFF grade in the NFL at inside linebacker. He leads the league with 97 tackles and has been known to make plays like this:

Gio Bernard was injured there, too.

7. No Jackson, no problem

Eyebrows were raised in the offseason when the Eagles decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson, a Pro Bowl receiver coming off the best season of his career. Jackson made big bucks and had some off-the-field red flags, but he was smack dab in the middle of his prime and Philadelphia’s only other top option, Jeremy Maclin, was coming back from the second torn ACL of his football career.

The gamble paid off.

Not only is Maclin on pace to have more catches, yards and touchdowns than Jackson ever did in an Eagles uniform, but the reigning NFC offensive player of the week is also riding an epic two-game hot streak.

First, he had 12 receptions, a career-high 187 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona’s strong defense, and then he followed that up with a 158-yard, two-score performance in Houston.

In fact, three of Maclin’s five most prolific games as a pro, in terms of yardage, have taken place in the last six weeks (he had 154 yards on eight catches, including a touchdown, against the Redskins in September).

Maclin's pace vs. Eagles records
Jackson's best8213329
Maclin's pace90158016

It’s scary to think how much more productive Maclin could be with a little more stability at the quarterback position, but that might not matter Monday against a Carolina defense that is having some major issues.

Cason has been torched time and again, while nickel man Melvin White has allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile a 137.0 passer rating on throws in his direction. That’s the third-worst average in the league, according to PFF. Josh Norman hasn’t been bad on paper, but he usually draws easier assignments.

8. Advanced stat of the week

The Eagles have been stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage on 25 percent of their runs, which according to Football Outsiders, is the highest rate in the NFL. And while the Panthers have struggled across the board on defense this season, they rank ninth in the NFL with stops at or behind on the line of scrimmage on 21 percent of the runs they’ve defended.

9. Under-the-radar stat(s) of the week

Got three interesting stats this week.

  • Stat A: While both teams have some solid offensive weapons, don’t think we’re going to get a lot of points. Carolina exited Week 9 ranked 30th in red-zone efficiency, while the Eagles ranked 31st. Two of the seven NFL offenses that are scoring touchdowns on less than half of their red-zone offensive possessions will be playing each other Monday night.
  • Stat B: Amazingly, the Eagles have the worst turnover differential in the NFC (minus-9) despite having the best point differential in the conference (plus-57). One thing that could keep Carolina in the game? Philly leads the league with 21 turnovers, while the Panthers rank tied in sixth in football with 16 takeaways.
  • Stat C: Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Austin Davis and Andrew Luck combined for 157 rushing yards on 20 carries against the Eagles. That’s 7.9 yards per rushing attempt. Cam Newton ranks third among all quarterbacks with 257 rushing yards.

10. Injuries to watch

Mathis will return for the Eagles, Foles is out and Kelce and Kendricks should be closer to 100 percent. Trai Turner (ankle, knee) remains out for Carolina, which means undrafted rookie Andrew Norwell will start at right guard for the third straight week.

Nobody is questionable or doubtful for either team, so there isn’t much drama here.

11. Totally useless but sometimes fascinating historical notes

Some indisputable facts, most or all of which will have no impact on Monday's game:

  • The Eagles have won back-to-back MNF games, beating Washington 33-27 in Week 1 last year and Indianapolis 30-27 in Week 2 this year. Both victories came on the road. They haven’t won a MNF home game since 2008, but this is only their third in that time frame.
  • The Panthers have also won back-to-back MNF games, including a 30-22 victory over the Eagles in 2012. That night, Cam Newton was 18-of-28 for 306 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, adding 52 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground.
  • Newton had three touchdowns, zero picks and a 125.4 passer rating in a Monday night win over the Patriots last season, adding 62 rushing yards. He completed 64 of 94 passes for 590 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions in three prime-time games in 2013.
  • But the Panthers have lost three straight prime-time games, including two this season. The Eagles are 2-0 in prime time this year and have won four straight night games dating back to last December (but not including a January playoff loss to the Saints).
  • The Eagles are 5-2 all time against Carolina.

12. But which city is cooler?

In case your team loses, let’s give you a chance to say you live in the cooler metropolis. Just drop this on your football frenemies:

Which city is cooler?
Best claim to fameNASCARCheese steaksCharlotte
CelebritiesUm, Billy Graham?Will Smith, Bradley Cooper, Tina FeyPhiladelphia
Hottest celebrityChelsea Cooley (Miss USA 2005)Kat DenningsCharlotte
Last call2 a.m.2 a.m.Tie
NicknameThe Hornet's NestThe City of Brotherly LovePhiladelphia

This is, admittedly, completely subjective. Feel free to move on to No. 13.

13. Prediction: The Linc will be the difference

For much of this century, the Eagles haven’t been an especially good home team. In fact, between 2000 and 2013, they were the only team in football to win more games on the road than at home.

But Philly is 4-0 at Lincoln Financial Field this season, having scored at least 27 points in each of those victories. And they’ve won seven straight regular-season home games dating back to last November.

Against a Carolina team that hasn’t won on the road versus an opponent with a winning record since 2011, this should be Philadelphia’s night.

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007. You can also read his work at Bleacher Report, Awful Announcing and This Given Sunday. In order to sound more professional, he wrote this blurb in the third person. Follow him on Twitter. Or don’t. It’s entirely your choice.

Panthers-Eagles: 13 things to know about Week 10's MNF game (2024)
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