EAGLES (4-1) AT PANTHERS (4-1), 8:30 P.M.
TV: Ch. 2, NFL; Radio: WFAN (660)
Panthers by 3.5; O/U: 45.5
One of the biggest complaints about Thursday Night Football — other than some of those color-rush uniforms — has been that the matchups aren’t really all that exciting. That’s not the case this week.
Carolina hosts Philadelphia in a battle of 4-1 NFC teams. The teams also have the same record against the spread (ATS), at 3-2. Cam Newton and Carson Wentz, ranked eighth (98.5) and ninth (97.7), respectively, in quarterback rating this season, should continue their strong starts.
These teams are evenly matched, hence the point spread. If the game was in Philly, the Eagles would be favored by about the same number. Does Carolina have a big home-field advantage? In its last home game, back in Week 3, it lost, 34-13, to an 0-2 Saints team. The week before, it held off the Bills, 9-3. The Eagles are 2-1 overall on the road, including a 27-20 loss at unbeaten Kansas City in Week 2, a game in which Philly held a fourth-quarter lead. Carolina is coming off back-to-back impressive road wins at New England and Detroit. Philly followed up a win over the Chargers in LA by crushing the Cardinals at home last week. This matchup pits the Eageles’ third-ranked offense, in terms of yards (397.8), against the Panthers’ third-ranked defense (274). The Eagles won’t have right tackle Lane Johnson (concussion), but could get back defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Not having Johnson could be a big factor against Julius Peppers and the Panthers’ pass rush, but look for Eagles coach Doug Pederson to counter with quick screens and creative playcalling. LeGarrette Blount is one of the toughest runners to tackle, and Wentz has a speedy receiver in Nelson Agholor and a big target in Alshon Jeffery. Newton is surrounded by his fair share of offensive talent, too, led by receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
This game could go either way. The only surprise would be if one team were to win in a rout. One of the rules for picking NFL games is that if you think the underdog can win outright, you always grab the points.
The pick: Eagles
Bob Glauber: Panthers
Tom Rock: Eagles
Calvin Watkins: Eagles