Panthers at Eagles MNF Preview
DUELING DISSAPPOINTMENTS: CAROLINA VISITS PHILADELPHIA IN MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Before the season started, ESPN was surely ecstatic about the Carolina Panthers-Philadelphia Eagles matchup sitting on November 26th to wrap up the Thanksgiving Week Football Bonanza. That would be young phenom Cam Newton facing veteran star Michael Vick in a game that would probably have playoff ramifications. Sports bettors will remember that many in Vegas had the Eagles ranked number one in the NFC power ratings this past summer.
Well...it turns out...
Cam Newton has endured a lengthy sophomore slump that now has skeptics wondering if he has the maturity and leadership to be a winner at this level. He could make some big plays when nobody knew his tendencies. Now, he's easy to contain and frustrate.
Michael Vick took a big step backward as well, become a turnover machine as the season crumbled around him. Now he's out with an injury...and won't even be on the field.
There are no playoff ramifications in a game matching a 2-8 visitor against a 3-7 host! The Eagles are the larger disappointment because media pundits and many Vegas sharps had penciled in a 12-4 type season for them as Super Bowl threats in this conference. Carolina sure wasn't supposed to be this bad, even if that 2-8 record is a little misleading because of a brutal schedule.
What a downer!
Sports bettors have learned, though, that it's games like this that often offer the best Las Vegas value. If one team is going to play with some intensity, while the other has thrown in the towel on the season...you can cover the number by one or two touchdowns.
Will Cam Newton fight to save his reputation in front of a national TV audience, launching Carolina to a comfortable victory as a small favorite?
Will Eagles quarterback Nick Foles fight to save his career after his early struggles in the aftermath of the Vick concussion?
Do you want to lay points on the road with a 2-8 team that may be down in the dumps? Do you want to take only three points if the Eagles are just going to phone in the rest of the season knowing that a head coaching change is imminent?
So many questions with these duel disappointments! Let's see if our indicator stats have any answers.
CAROLINA PANTHERS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8:35 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Carolina by 3, total of 41
Remember that Carolina is the road team. The market is saying that the Panthers with Newton are SIX points better on a neutral field than the Eagles and Foles, and would be NINE point favorites if this game were in Carolina. Are the Eagles really this bad? Needless to say, oddsmakers and sharp bettors haven't been impressed with Foles in the pocket, or with the effort of the Eagles team as a whole once the season started to go South.
WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)
Carolina: 2-8 (1st ranked schedule)
Philadelphia: 3-7 (14th ranked schedule)
This is what we mean about Carolina's killer schedule. They've had it tougher than anybody in the NFL this year. If you assigned them a league average schedule, they would probably move up to about 4-6. That's still disappointing...but not as disastrous. The Eagles are 3-7 against what is roughly a league average schedule...when they were supposed to dominate the NFC.
You can see what we mean about Vick being a turnover machine. It's very tough to win games when you're handing away cheap points or spiking your own drives with miscues. Newton hasn't been awful in this category for a second-year quarterback. But, he's not showing true star potential either. Many all-time greats took big steps forward in their second seasons. Newton's stuck in neutral at best.
Carolina: 334.0 yards-per-game on 5.6 yards-per-play
Philadelphia: 361.7 yards-per-game on 5.1 yards-per-play
Interesting mixes there. Carolina is doing well enough on a per-play basis, but they're not turning that into high game volume. Philadelphia ranks poorly this year on a per-play basis...but they have the ball enough that they can still crack 360 yards per game on average. Much of that is pace related. The Eagles play faster, which is part of why they have more screw-ups too. Foles is a big drop-off from Vick in terms of production. If the above full-season stats are a wash...then Carolina has a clear edge over Foles on this side of the ball.
Carolina: 350.7 yards-per-game on 5.3 yards-per-play
Philadelphia: 340.3 yards-per-game on 5.5 yards-per-play
Very similar numbers here, so we'll call it even defensively. Though, we should report that the Eagles were playing well on defense before firing their coordinator, only to start struggling after he was removed from power. The Panthers might have an edge here as well. Given the Vegas spread, the market seems to believe Carolina is better offensively AND defensively.
LAST WEEK'S BOXES
TAMPA BAY 27, CAROLINA 21 (in overtime)
Total Yardage: Tampa Bay 403, Carolina 331
Rushing Yards: Tampa Bay 167, Carolina 97
Passing Stats: Tampa Bay 25-46-2-236, Carolina 16-29-0-234
Turnovers: Tampa Bay 3, Carolina 1
Third Downs: Tampa Bay 39%, Carolina 53%
Vegas Line: Tampa Bay by 1, total of 46
You'll recall that Carolina led most of the way here. They allowed a very late TD and two-point conversion in regulation to force overtime. Disheartened and tired, they kind of rolled over in overtime. The danger of falling in love with fading the Eagles Monday Night is that Carolina may be so disheartened from this blown divisional game that they may not bring much fire.
WASHINGTON 31, PHILADELPHIA 6
Total Yardage: Philadelphia 257, Washington 361
Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 80, Washington 169
Passing Stats: Philadelphia 21-46-2-177, Washington 14-15-0-192
Turnovers: Philadelphia 3, Washington 0
Third Downs: Philadelphia 37%, Washington 45%
Vegas Line: Washington by 3.5, total of 45
The Eagles lost every category, AND imploded with turnovers too. That created the monster scoreboard margin in what was supposed to be a field goal game. There's actually enough there to say that the Eagles could hang with people as underdogs if they avoid turnovers. Carolina isn't as good as Washington, and tonight's game is in Philly.
Unfortunately, the best expectation is pretty ugly. We could see two teams who don't care very much...and the announcers have to spend the night talking about "playing for pride" and "building for next year" while everyone kicks the ball around. There is a chance though for one team to rise up and dominate. Your task as sports bettors is to figure out who that team is going to be if it happens.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to get a read on the mindset of both teams. If it's going to be a double no-show emotionally...then maybe the Under is the way to play it. If one team wants to make a statement on TV...NETWORK clients will be on that team. Information means everything in a game like this!
You can purchase the final word in this week's Monday Night Football matchup in the hours before kickoff right here at this website. We're also looking at bonus basketball from the NBA and college cards. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Sign up for the rest of football at reduced rates...and that will take you through this week's college conference championship games, all the bowls, and the NFL playoffs through the Super Bowl. Representatives are ready to outline the options for you.
Back with you Tuesday to talk about the Big 10-ACC challenge in college basketball. The sports world is anxiously awaiting North Carolina-Indiana on Tuesday Night and Ohio State-Duke on Wednesday Night!
Thanksgiving may be over...but that just means the Christmas stocking stuffers are about to begin. Let's go get the money!
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