Here are the 3 keys for the Eagles to get a Monday Night Football win against the Panthers tonight:
1) Protect Nick Foles
The Panthers have 2 very good pass rushing DEs in Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, and the Eagles will need to keep them in check in order to have success on offense tonight. Foles looks like he might be able to perform serviceably if he has time to throw and a pocket to step up into, but if he doesn’t we could see another game like last week against Washington. Look for the Eagles to run a lot of short passes and screens to try to keep Johnson and Hardy from wreaking havoc. Also expect to see Brent Celek stay in to help block. RB playing time could also be determined by who is doing the best job in pass protection, something Bryce Brown has struggled with in the past.
2) Establish the Run
Even without Lesean McCoy in the lineup, the Eagles should (theoretically) be able to run on this Panthers defense. It has improved in recent weeks, but they still rank 18th in the NFL, giving up an average of 118.4 yards per game. Nearly every running back they’ve gone up against has gone off this year, including New York Giants’ backup Andre Brown and the nearly-decrepit Michael Turner. Bryce Brown has showed potential as a runner thus far, and tonight is his big chance to show the team that he is the backup of the future to Lesean McCoy. The Eagles need to run the ball at the Panthers’ weak interior DL early and often to alleviate some of the pressure that is sure to be on Nick Foles.
3) Contain Cam Newton
The Eagles struggled with a similarly mobile QB in Robert Griffin III last week, but they get another chance tonight against Cam Newton. The Eagles will have to deal with a lot of read-option looks from the Panthers, and it’s imperative that the defense, particularly the DL, plays it correctly or Newton could have a big day on the ground. Aerially, Newton will be looking for TE Greg Olsen and WR Steve Smith primarily. Olsen is a safety blanket for Newton, but the combination of Demeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks should (operative word being should) be able to neutralize him somewhat. Smith is a different story, however. With an allegedly elite CB like Nnamdi Asomugha on the roster, one would think that the matchup with Smith would be relatively straightforward. However, Asomugha has struggled mightily during his time in Philadelphia, and Smith figures to have the advantage between the two. With shaky safety play behind the corners, look for the Newton-Smith connection to have a big game.
Panthers 23, Eagles 13.
The defense is bad and the offense figures to be worse without Nick Foles and Lesean McCoy. They can’t block anyone and they can’t cover anyone, either. It’s going to get ugly at Lincoln Financial Field tonight.