This week’s Monday Night action takes us to Philly as the Carolina Panthers (2-8) get set to face the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7) in a showdown of possibly the two most underachieving teams in the league. The two teams have the worst records in the NFC. In fact, somebody on Twitter earlier said “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty would be the perfect soundtrack for both these teams. With quarter back Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy ruled out for the Eagles, Carolina has a shot at getting the win and putting the final straw on the camel’s back that is coach Andy Reid’s career in Philadelphia.
AccuScore simulations project a Carolina win 51.3 percent of the time, covering their -2.5 spread 48.2 percent of the time. The average score of the simulations comes out to 22.5 – 22.2, indicating the safer bet would be to take the Eagles and the points. The total for the game is set at 40.5, and the simulations went OVER nearly 60 percent of the time. Note: The total has gone OVER in 4 of Philadelphia’s last 6 games when playing Carolina.
Carolina, losers of seven of their last eight, is coming off an overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (27-21). In five of their last six losses, they had the lead at some point in the game. The Panthers are ranked 18th and 16th in their passing and rushing games, respectively. Their offensive is ranked 22nd overall. The team, led by quarter back Cam Newton, has taken a huge step back from last season to this one.
The game plan for the Panthers this week, just like most other weeks, is to run the ball. Philadelphia’s run defense (19th in the league) has given up 100 or more yards rushing in six straight games, all losses. The formula to beat the Eagles has been simple and proven, no reason to go away from what seems to work. Carolina ran 34 times against the top-ranked Tampa Bay run defense last week.
AccuScore simulations project nearly 61 rushing yards on 8 carries for Newton, the team’s leading rusher. Running back Jonathan Stewart is projected to rush for 56 yards on 12 carries. While the data doesn’t indicate Stewart has a good chance of getting a TD, he did have one in last week’s game. He has not broken the 100-yard mark for a single game all season, but the Philly rush defense makes this a favorable matchup for Stewart.
Newton is also projected to throw for 224 yards with a passer rating of 72.1. According to the simulations, he has about the same chance of throwing an interception as he does a touchdown. Philadelphia ranks 13th in the league in pass defense, giving up 222 yards per game.
His primary targets all season have been wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and tight end Greg Olson. Smith, who has only scored a TD once all year, is projected to catch for 66 yards on 4 receptions. He is projected to get just 0.3 TDs this game, meaning he most likely isn’t going to find the end-zone. LaFell is having a great season, and has scored 3 TDs so far. He found the end-zone once last week, and is projected to catch for 38 yards on between two to three receptions. His longest gain last week for for 24 yards. Olson has scored a touchdown two of the last three times he has faced Philadelphia; he is projected to get 34 yards on 3 receptions.
Eagles’ rookie quarter back Nick Foles will look to bounce back from last week, when he threw interceptions on the first two possessions and fumbled a total of three times. The Eagles lost to the Washington Redskins 31-6. With McCoy out, this week won’t necessarily get any easier for Foles. He’s projected to throw for 251 yards with a passer rating of 84.1. While Newton had a slightly better probability of throwing an INT than a TD, Foles has a slightly higher chance of throwing a TD than an INT. Both QBs, according to the simulations, will throw both an INT and a TD tomorrow.
The Carolina defense (17th in the league) will look to pressure Foles from the get-go. Philly QBs have thrown 14 INTs all season, and lost 6 fumbles. Philadelphia is last in the NFC, second worst in the league, in turnover ratio at minus 14. Philly has to play a mistake-free game if they want to keep it close, and make sure their defense makes some sort of impact on the field. They are fourth worst in the NFL at creating turnovers, better than only the likes of Indiana, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
With McCoy out as their main back, Bryce Bowen will get the majority of the carries. He is projected to carry it 15 times for 61 yards. Running back Dion Lewis is projected to get 33 yards on 8 carries. Carolina is 20th in the league in rush defense, but McCoy being out takes away Philly’s advantage there.
Things are bad for both teams, but definitely worse for Philadelphia. The turnover battle should be the deciding factor and I don’t trust Philly’s defense to force any. I’m taking Carolina, 20-13.
Originally written for AccuScore.com