The 3-7 Philadelphia Eagles take on the 2-8 Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football in scintillating Week 12 action. I’m sure this “battle of the disappointments” isn’t what the schedule-makers had in mind when they put this on the calendar last spring.
It was supposed to Cam Newton, the rookie sensation in 2011, versus the resurgent Michael Vick. The Panthers appeared primed to make a playoff push in 2012 and there are always post-season expectations here in Philly.
Last spring, this did look like a good matchup. Now, it’s merely just a game and certainly won’t hold any national appeal.
This game will have the feel of a preseason game for the Eagles in that eight rookies will be playing prominent roles. Nick Foles at QB, Bryce Brown at RB, Dennis Kelly at RT, Fletcher Cox at DT, Mychal Kendricks at OLB, Brandon Boykin at slot CB, Vinny Curry at DE and Damaris Johnson at WR.
And when you factor in the rest of the offensive line, it definitely has the feel of preseason.
So, rather than bore you with trying to sound “professional” and make lemonade out of this game of lemons, I thought I’d just take a step back and preview what I think we’ll see from a fan’s perspective…
Carolina comes in ranked 29th in overall offense, averaging 334 yards per game. They rank 28th in the NFL in points per game, averaging 18.4. Cam Newton comes in ranked as the 27th rated passer with an average QB rating of just 79, and has just nine TD passes against 10 interceptions.
Sounds bad, right? Well, not to worry. Over the lasts four weeks, the Eagles’ defense has made opposing quarterbacks look damn near perfect. The average QB rating has been 136.5 over that span, including at least one perfect 158.3 rating for RG3 of the Redskins.
The Eagles’ defense is just what the doctor ordered for a struggling QB and offense. It’s as if they’re spinach, and the opposing QB is Popeye!
Therefore, expect a good game from Newton. Expect that he will complete a very good percentage of his passes. Expect that none will be intercepted. Expect that he will rarely be pressured. Expect that he will look like a future hall of fame quarterback.
In essence, expect the Eagles’ defense to make the Panthers’ offense look like they’re ranked in the top 10, rather than the bottom 10. We’ll be wondering if Bill Walsh is the offensive coordinator.
On the defensive side of the ball, Carolina is ranked a mediocre 18th in the league in yards per game, giving up an average of 350.7. They’re slightly better versus the pass (ranked 17th, 232.3 yards per game) than against the run (ranked 20th, 118.4 yards per game).
They also give up 24.3 points per game, ranking them at 21st in the league. They have 15 takeaways, which is five more than the Eagles, but the team is still in the negative as far as the turnover ratio goes.
But alas, they’re playing the Eagles’ offense! Remember when the Saints had the worst defense in the league a few weeks ago but then faced the Eagles? Yeah, well they still have one of the worst defenses but for that one week against Philly, they looked championship caliber.
Here’s what’ll happen tonight:
Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will look like DeMarcus Ware and Jason Pierre-Paul. MLB Luke Kuechly will look like Dick Butkis. Their no-name secondary will look like Deion Sanders, Darrelle Revis, Brian Dawkins and Ed Reed.
We’re going to make Sean McDermott look like the second coming of Chuck Noll (and the Steel Curtain).
Hell, the Eagles will even make the Panthers’ special teams look dominant.
That’s what these Eagles do anymore, they make the other teams look good. It’s ashame really, but that’s what this season has turned into. The Eagles are the cure for an ailing team rather than being a measuring stick for their opponents.
I know, I know…depressing, right?
In all seriousness, I believe Nick Foles will have a better showing than he did last week. He still may not look “good”, but he needs to show some form of improvement. Obviously, he needs to figure out how to get DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin more involved, at the least.
Also, I am very excited to see Vinny Curry finally get some playing time. I’ve been waiting all season for his debut and can’t fathom why it has taken this long, given that Phillip Hunt has all but disappeared.
We could be getting a glimpse of half of our future starting defensive line tonight with he and fellow rookie Fletcher Cox
As I’ve said many times, the rest of this year is about player evaluation. That’ll be my focus as I watch the remaining six games. It’s no longer about wins and losses, though losing may be in the best interest of this franchise for next season.