Another win on the road against a first-class opponent on Sunday has Panther Nation feeling pretty good this week. The 27-24 win over Detroit prompted talk of division titles. That talk could get louder with a win tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Each week in the 2017 season, CharlotteFive will give you a quick preview of the Panthers’ upcoming opponent — sometimes love, sometimes hate, sometimes just things to know.
We’ll leave the legitimate previews to the pros at the Observer.
Tonight, the 4–1 NFC East-leading Eagles come to Charlotte. Because it’s a school night, Philly probably won’t bring the traveling masses south like the Bills did, but there will still be plenty of green in the stands. Let’s discuss if we should be worried about it.
(Kickoff is set for 8:25 p.m. in Charlotte, and the game will be broadcast on CBS, NFL Network and Amazon Prime.)
(1) The Eagles are good.
Worry for Thursday night might be justified: Like the Patriots and Lions before them, the Eagles are legitimate contenders in 2017. All reputable NFL Power Rankings (sorry, Bleacher Report) have put the Eagles in the top five teams in the league this week, and the NFL itself is putting them at No. 2.
Week 6 NFL Power Rankings (via @HarrisonNFL):
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2017
(How does a league website “power rank” its own teams? That feels weird.)
Only USA Today and Sporting News have the Panthers higher, but Carolina has faced a far more difficult opening schedule. Philadelphia squeaked past the then-winless LA Chargers 26-24 and the still-winless New York Giants 27-24, so the Eagles’ 4–1 record might not be as impressive as it seems.
Still, they are third in the league in total offense, fifth in the league in rushing, and second in the league in rushing defense. They’ll be a challenge for the Panthers on Thursday night no matter what they’re wearing.
(2) Color Rush.
That’s right: The Panthers and Eagles get the glorious and prestigious honor of playing in the time-honored, historic NFL tradition of Thursday Night Football Color Rush uniforms.
The Eagles, who have sported some legendary kelly green jerseys in their day, should have a really dynamic look for Color Rush night. How wonderful it will be to stare at blinding-bright Panthers blue and blinding-bright Eagles green for four hours. Wait a second …
— Mmm, Tasty (@HitEm20) September 14, 2017
Their #ColorRush jersey is all black? What on Earth? How is this possible? Get the branding people on the phone: I demand to have my eyes assaulted by disgusting color combinations while watching regular season midweek football.
We’ll always have Jags-Titans.
jags color rush unis are a new level of hideous that i didn’t know existed. hats off nfl. pic.twitter.com/3Budni5lD3
— the ol’Chrisser™ (@theolchrisser) October 28, 2016
(3) Carson Wentz.
Back to the football: The Eagles are good, and the main reason for their 4–1 start is their 24-year-old quarterback, Carson Wentz. The North Dakota State University grad and second overall draft pick in 2016 was actually born in Raleigh, but his parents moved to North Dakota when he was 3 years old.
If they hadn’t, would Wentz have played at UNC or NC State?
Regardless, in just his second NFL season, Wentz sits sixth in the league in passing yardage with 1,362 yards and has thrown 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions in five starts.
Everyone has praised him as the star of the future, but with the Eagles at 4–1, he might be the star of now. Shannon Sharpe seems to think so … or at least he says he does to get under Skip Bayless’s skin.
Let’s see what the sophomore can do against Luke, Julius, Thomas and the rest of the Panthers’ Hall of Famers.
.@cj_wentz‘s second season is off to a spectacular start.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) October 10, 2017
(4) Blitzes will test the Panthers line.
According to Eagles beat writer Zach Berman, we’re likely to see a lot of blitzes on Thursday night as Philadelphia tries to stop Superman from finding his wide range of offensive options.
“(Defensive coordinator Jim) Schwartz has called blitzes more often this season, and the Eagles will use them selectively on Thursday to put Newton on a clock,” Berman writes. “The challenge isn’t just containing or running with Newton, but also getting him to the ground.”
Good luck with that.
As we said above, the Eagles defense is really good against the run, second in the league with only 62.8 yards allowed per game. Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey might struggle again as a result. (Detroit is third best).
But their pass defense is 29th best in the league, allowing 283.2 yards in the air on average. Cam, Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess (if he’s healthy enough), and Ed Dickson should enjoy that.
(5) Julie Ertz’s husband is good at football.
You probably know the name Julie Ertz, or at least y’all know her by her maiden name, Julie Johnston. The Chicago Red Stars midfielder and U.S. Women’s National Team center back helped lead the U.S. to glory in the 2015 World Cup.
Then, in 2016, the soccer star got engaged to longtime boyfriend Zach Ertz, and the couple got married in March 2017.
Yes, dear reader, Julie’s husband Zach plays professional sports, too: He’s been called “the MVP of the Eagles season thus far,” and he is Carson Wentz’s number one target.
Ertz has brought in 32 receptions, 20 for first downs, and has been targeted 48 times, good for sixth most in the league through Week 5. He only has two touchdowns on the year, but as we saw last week with Ed Dickson, a tight end can make big plays and can change the game.
Watch for Wentz and Ertz to make plenty of connectionz on Thurzday night … sorry, I’ll show myself out.
Photo: Yong Kim/Philadelphia Inquirer