After beginning the season 4-2 last year, the Philadelphia Eagles have once again taken the league by storm with a 4-1 record, tied for the best record in the NFC. The difference from last year to this season is that the Eagles do not seem to be as shocked to be in this position. Under the guidance of quarterback Carson Wentz, this team has looked composed under pressure, despite what Skip Bayless may believe, which had led to them finishing out games for victories in situations that they ended up losing last season.
Following an impressive win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles find themselves against another team that sits atop of the NFC in the Carolina Panthers. After suffering a loss to the New Orleans Saints, their division rival, the Panthers have pulled things together to defeat two tough opponents in the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions in back to back weeks. With an offense that looked to struggle at times in the first three weeks, they have reached at least 27 points in each of the last two games.
Two teams that have been firing on all cylinders as of late will compete against one another on a short week in this extremely important Thursday night matchup. If both teams stay at the top of the conference through the end of the season, this game’s result could be the tiebreaker when deciding home field advantage in the playoffs. As an opportunity to prove that they belong at the top of the NFC, here are the keys to victory for the Eagles.
Week Six Philadelphia Eagles Keys to Victory
Control the Time of Possession
A huge key in the wins from both the Panthers and Eagles is the time of possession. Not only have both teams led in time of possession for seven of their eight combined victories, but they have completely dominated by leading by at least nine minutes of game time. The one victory that either team had without leading in the time of possession was when the Panthers narrowly defeated the Patriots in week four. On the other hand, the Eagles have led in time of possession for each and every game they have played, including their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the Panthers sole loss of the season, they had lost the time of possession battle to a team that is known for passing early and often in the Saints. Coming out with a big shot early in this game and establishing a lead could be crucial for the Eagles. With the running game working the way it has been to begin the season, the Eagles will be the first top ten rushing offense that they have faced all year and should be a big part of this game. The Panthers run defense will be tested for the first time this season and running the ball effectively could be a huge factor in the outcome of this game.
Get Hits on Cam Newton
The two times that the Panthers failed to score at least 14 points this season, quarterback Cam Newton had been hit a combined 12 times and sacked a combined ten times. Fortunately, they went 1-1 in these games due to the Buffalo Bills only being able to generate three points total in their week two matchup. Unfortunately for them, the Eagles have not scored under 20 points at all this season and only once had they scored under 26, in their loss to the Chiefs.
As long as the Eagles can continue to put up points with the way their offense is clicking, their defense, specifically the front seven, will need to provide pressure on Newton as well as lay some hits on him. As Newton goes, so does their offense, and if he is feeling the pressure of defensive linemen, any rhythm that they have generated over the past few weeks will certainly be thrown off. Even with All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox possibly missing the game, the Eagles defensive line has produced a lot of pressure without him and will look to continue to do so against the Panthers.
Keep Tall Receivers in Check
The past two weeks had seen the Panthers offense clicking with Newton seeking out wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess as well as tight end Ed Dickson. Those three have combined for a total of 30 receptions and 522 receiving yards over the course of the past two contests and have scored four touchdowns, three by Funchess alone. With Funchess and Dickson at 6’4″ and Benjamin an inch taller, on pure height alone, it is hard to miss any of these receivers and Newton is proving that to be correct as of late.
Rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas, at 6’2″, could be an X-factor in this game as his size could play a pivotal role in keeping the tall receivers of the Panthers in check. It would be impossible to hope to completely shut all three of these players down but the hope would be to keep these guys in front of them, avoid any big plays and take a gamble or two in search of a Newton mistake.