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Panthers Face The Defending Champs

Sharon Thorsland
October 19, 2018 - 11:04 am

It's a big game for the Panthers this week – they take on the defending Super Bowl champs in Philadelphia. Kick-off is set for 1:00 on WBT.  It's been a bit of a rough start to the season for the Eagles. They're 3-3 on the season after a win over the Giants last Thursday night, but they look like they're starting to find their groove now that Carson Wentz is back. It's not often you see a Super Bowl MVP benched the following season – but that's what happened in Philly when Nick Foles took a back seat to Wentz, who returned from ACL surgery to reclaim his starting role. Wentz was having an MVP-type season when he blew out his knee last December, and since taking over in week three, he's averaging nearly 300 yards per game and has thrown 8 touchdowns and just one interception.

“He's a competitor,” said Panther defensive end Wes Horton. “We've gotta stop his momentum, he's a tempo type of quarterback, he wants to get the ball out quick.”

Wentz is missing some of his offensive weapons, with receivers Mike Wallace, former Tar Heel Mack Hollins, and tight end Richard Rodgers all on I-R. But he's still got his number one target in Zach Ertz. The 6-5 tight end is 2nd in the NFL with 48 catches for 480 yards and two touchdowns. Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffrey is healthy again, and Nelson Agholor is a speedster in the slot. They're a great group,” said Panther safety Mike Adams. “They're all deep threats. Ertz is like a wide receiver playing tight end. They're all dangerous – we definitely have our work cut out for us.”

The Eagles also lost their starting running back when Jay Ajayi tore his ACL in week five. Three-time Pro Bowler Darren Sproles has been out with a hamstring injury, so the Eagles have gone to a running back by committee approach. Wendell Smallwood, second year player Corey Clement and undrafted rookie Josh Adams combine to average 110 rushing yards per game, that's 14th in the league.

The Eagles have an outstanding defensive front, anchored by Pro Bowlers Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Fellow Pro Bowlers Haloti Ngata, Michael Bennett and Chris Long are also in the mix. Jordan Hicks anchors the linebackers. They'll give the Panthers and their 4th ranked rushing attack plenty of problems – the Eagles are giving up just 79 rushing yards per game, that's 2nd in the league. “Strong, man, strong, fast and physical,” said Panthers running back CJ Anderson. “D-line's really good, a really sound football team. It's another challenge.”

The Eagles aren't as good against the pass, and they've got a banged up secondary with injuries to three of their top defensive backs. And they're vulnerable to the big play – the Eagles have given up seven plays of 45 yards of more, that's tied with Oakland for most in the league. So now would be a good time for Cam Newton to try and get the ball down the field...

This is an important game for the Panthers – they want to get back on track after the loss to the Redskins, it's a conference game that could have playoff implications down the road, and oh yeah, the Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl champs. “It's definitely a big game for us,” said Anderson. “We don't want to be 3-3. We're expecting their all, we're expecting them to continue to throw punches. It's going to be a great matchup, a great football game.”

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