Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (-7, 48 o/u)
After making their presence known last season with a division title and a playoff appearance, the Carolina Panthers (3-5-1, 1-2-1 away) are currently struggling in the NFC South, which has seemingly overnight become one of the league’s weakest divisions.
Despite the team’s mediocre play, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera remains optimistic.
Rivera said, “I’ve been in a race like this before, we all have. It ends up being the team that comes back, that gets up and keeps fighting. The next thing you know, you’re right in the thick of things.”
In the last round of that fight, the Panthers dropped a home game to the now-division-leading Saints (28-10) and didn’t come close to covering as 2.5-point home dogs. The next round takes place tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles (6-2, 4-0 home) on Monday Night Football.
With starting QB Nick Foles sidelined for six weeks with a broken clavicle, the NFC East-leading Eagles will turn to former New York Jet Mark Sanchez for the foreseeable future. Though Sanchez has numerous detractors after his subpar career with the Jets, his current head coach, Chip Kelly, is not one of them.
“He’s already ready, he’s always focused and always prepared to make plays and that’s part of his makeup. That’s what we really liked about him,” Kelly said about Sanchez.
Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin is also in Sanchez’s corner.
“He plays at a high level … I think he is one of the more game-ready backup quarterbacks in this league,” said Maclin, who caught a 52-yard pass from Sanchez last week as the Eagles breezed past the Texans.
Philly still has two games left against division rival Dallas, who beat Jacksonville on Sunday to move to 7-3, and Foles is expected to miss both. Sanchez will have to maintain the high level he showed against Houston if the Eagles are going to stay atop the NFC East.
As for tonight’s contest, considering LeSean McCoy is once again a major force in the Eagles backfield, and the Panthers are surrendering 131 rushing yards per game (27th in the NFL), look for the Eagles (-7) to cover.
(Photo credit: Mr.schultz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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