5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Panthers


The Eagles (3-3) are ready to host the Panthers (3-2) in a battle that might pin two of the better teams in the NFC against each other.

The Eagles are coming off a big win on the road against the Giants, while Carolina lost to Washington on the road Sunday.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Cam Newton vs. Eagles linebackers

This is a tough quarterback to face and has been for several years. It's hard to face Newton because, at any moment, he can become a threat to run for a first down. Jim Schwartz even noted that Newton has to be thought of as a runner, even when he's still in the pocket. This season, Newton is averaging 41.6 yards on the ground. While the Eagles have been very good over the last two years against the run, they have given up some yards on the ground to scrambling quarterbacks.

In four career games against the Eagles, Newton is 2-2, but his numbers aren't good. He's completed less than 60 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. In fact, his passer rating of 69.4 against the Eagles is his lowest against any other team in the NFL.

It takes the entire defense to shut down a guy like Newton, but the linebackers play a really big role. They have to defend the pass and the threat of Newton's running. That's not an easy task. The good news for the Eagles is they have three really athletic linebackers who might be up for the challenge.

Torrey Smith vs. Jalen Mills

Smith finally started to get things going last week when he caught five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown, but his longest catch of the season is still 26 yards. In his career, Smith has been known as a burner who can stretch the field. He hasn't done that much this season and didn't have his best season last year in Philly.

But if there's a game where Smith or the Panthers might be able to make a play downfield, it's probably this one and it'll probably come against Mills, who has been susceptible to the deep ball and double moves. Even last week, when Mills played really well, he still gave up a deep ball. It's not all on Mills, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Panthers attack him in this way.

It feels like something's gotta give here. The Eagles give up too many big plays and the Panthers don't get many big plays. They have just one passing play of 40-plus yards this season, tied for a league low with Houston and Cincinnati. The Eagles have given up five this season; just six teams have allowed more.

Carson Wentz vs. Luke Kuechly

While he's had trouble staying healthy in his career, when Kuechly is on the field, there's arguably no one better. Not only is he a fierce player, but he's the brains of the operation for the Panthers.

Part of Wentz's success in the league has been his ability to manipulate defenders. It's an area where he still has plenty of room for growth, but it's not easy to fool Kuechly. This is a fun game within the game.

Christian McCaffrey vs. Eagles

The Panthers, averaging 139.4 yards on the ground, boast the NFL's fourth-best rushing offense. But a lot of that is thanks to having a mobile quarterback in Newton. Still, McCaffrey presents plenty of problems too. He's averaging around 70 yards on the ground and nearly 50 per game as a receiver. He's really good.

Now, he's no Saquon Barkley, but McCaffrey has that dual-threat ability and can make tacklers miss. The Eagles are coming off one of their worst tackling games in recent history. How much of that was thanks to Barkley and how much was really their fault? I guess we'll find out Sunday.

Jason Peters vs. Mario Addison

Peters is going to try to play through a partially torn biceps after he was already playing through a quad injury. The whole right side of his body has been covered in armor this week in practice. Peters wasn't playing at his best before the biceps injury and now he'll face the Panthers' best pass-rusher. Addison has 3½ sacks through five games after an 11-sack season last year.

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