Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles were the darlings of the NFL during the first month of the 2016 season. That fast start was following by a lengthy tailspin, which is why the Eagles are not getting too far ahead of themselves as they prepare to visit the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night in a matchup of division leaders.
“What we don’t know about ourselves is how we handle success. Which, I think, is more dangerous,” cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said after Philadelphia’s 34-7 destruction of Arizona on Sunday. “It’s easy to start listening to the fans and the media about how good you are, but at the end of the day, it’s a race to improve every week.” The Eagles are sitting atop the NFC East with a 4-1 record, their lone loss coming at Kansas City — the league’s only unbeaten team. Like Philadelphia, the Panthers are 4-1 and alone in first place in the NFC South after squeezing out a pair of impressive three-point road wins at New England and Detroit. Cam Newton has bounced back from some early-season struggles with some superb play, but it has been overshadowed by his sexist remarks to a female reporter during a media session.
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS, NFL Network. LINE: Panthers -3. O/U: 45.5
ABOUT THE EAGLES (4-1): All but four of last week’s 14 games were decided by six points or fewer, but Philadelphia was one of the exceptions as Wentz posted a perfect passer rating in the first quarter with three of his four touchdown passes. Tight end Zach Ertz continues to be Wentz’s favorite target with 32 receptions and two touchdowns, but Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor each hauled in long scoring strikes against a vaunted Arizona secondary. Running back LeGarrette Blount is providing balance to the offense, averaging 6.6 yards per carry over the past three games. The Eagles rank 29th against the pass but defensive tackle Fletcher Cox practiced fully Tuesday after missing the last two games.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (4-1): Newton got off to a slow start while working his way back from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder, but he has been spectacular in the past two games with a combined passer rating of 137.2 while throwing for 671 yards and six TDs. Tight end Greg Olsen was injured in Week 2 but Ed Dickson gave the position a boost with five receptions for 175 yards last week. Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey has 27 catches while wideout Devin Funchess is forming some chemistry Newton with 14 receptions and three scores over the past two games. Carolina’s defense is surrendering 274 yards per game, ranking No. 1 in the NFC, while allowing 194.2 yards through the air.
1. Eagles RT Lane Johnson is expected to miss the game after suffering a concussion against Arizona.
2. Newton has thrown for 1,069 yards with 12 TDs and zero interceptions in his last four versus the NFC East.
3. Ertz has at least five receptions in six consecutive games.
PREDICTION: Panthers 27, Eagles 20