Thursday Night Football Grades: Week 6 (Eagles at Panthers)

Carson Wentz and Nelson Agholar celebrating a score. (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

Unable to stay awake for the entirety of Thursday Night Football? Watching the highlights is a great start to getting caught up, but they rarely paint the entire picture. Good news: we’ll be offering in-depth analysis of each Thursday Night Football matchup, including grades for the noteworthy players from the game and the future betting prospects for both teams, information which you can utilize at our top-rated sportsbooks.

Week 6

Philadelphia Eagles: 28

Carolina Panthers: 23

Yet again, the first quarter of Thursday Night Football was awfully sloppy and provided little entertainment, witnessing just six total points. But hopefully you didn’t give up on this one too early.

Both teams got their offenses going in the second quarter, and the Eagles went on to capitalize on a couple crucial Cam Newton turnovers in the second half to take the lead. Ultimately, Philadelphia’s defense proved too much for Carolina down the stretch, and the Eagles improved to 5-1 with a 28-23 victory.

Here’s how the most noteworthy players graded out in the Week 6 edition of Thursday Night Football.

Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz: A

I could write a thousand words on Carson Wentz’s brilliance last night, or you could watch this four-minute highlight reel …

Wentz faced a lot of pressure all night, but consistently hung in and made elite throws in tight windows. We may look back on this as the game in which Wentz established himself as an upper-echelon NFL QB.

However, one throw precludes Wentz back from receiving my first ever A+ grade: with only 2:15 left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles faced a third-and-seven, and a conversion would have nearly iced the game. Wentz tried to fit a ball into his TE Zach Ertz over the middle, not noticing Nelson Agholor standing completely uncovered. The ball to Ertz fell incomplete and the Panthers were given one last chance to mount a game-winning drive. Had Wentz converted on that third down, this would have been my only criticism …

Gotta pull the trigger!

Fletcher Cox: A

The Eagles’ monstrous DT made his return to the lineup last night after missing the previous two games with a calf injury, and it looked like he hadn’t missed a snap. Cox was a force against the run and had a huge impact rushing the passer.

Not only was the 26-year-old in on a sack, but he also forced Newton’s first interception. Cox pushed his blocker back into Newton as he tried to throw, resulting in a fluttering popup that fell into the arms of Rasul Douglas.

It was a dominant return for Cox, who was an integral part of the Eagles victory.

Alshon Jeffery: C-

Alshon Jeffery turned four catches into 71 yards last night, and his performance is why you can’t form proper opinions solely based on the boxscore. Jeffery saw ten targets last night, and — as has been the story of his season — was extremely inefficient with them. Jeffery was given plenty of opportunities to be a game-changing receiver, but failed to take advantage. His most aggravating play came on a perfectly thrown ball deep down the right sideline that the 27-year-old watched fall right through his hands.

Through the first six weeks of the season, Jeffery has proven what many already believed entering free agency earlier this year: he’s not a legitimate WR1.

LeGarrette Blount: B+

Against a tough Panthers front-seven, LeGarrette Blount consistently churned out positive yards and was always falling forward. His 14-carry, 67-yard statline (plus a two-point conversion) may not be very sexy, but he was exactly what Philadelphia needed him to be: a pounder.

Blount was also solid in pass protection last night, earning him a solid B+ on the evening.

Eagles’ Betting Outlook

Bovada currently has the Eagles at -350 to win the NFC East, while you can get them at -334 over on Bet365. I wouldn’t advise biting on either. I do believe Philadelphia will win the NFC East, but you need to hold out for more value. Too many things have gone the Eagles’ way lately, and some of those bounces will go the other way in the coming weeks. Hold off on betting the Eagles to win the division until Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension is overruled again, and both Dallas and Washington win a couple games.

But Carson Wentz to win NFL MVP at +2000 is starting to become awfully tempting.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton: C+

Two of Cam Newton’s three interceptions were not his fault. His own offensive lineman was thrown into him on the first, and Jonathan Stewart showed why he’s not a receiver on the second. Newton also accounted for 71 of the Panthers’ 80 yards on the ground and was robbed of what should have been an incredible TD …

But I have two major issues with Cam’s game last night. The first came on the final drive of the first half. The Panthers took over at their own 28-yard-line with 2:27 remaining. Newton masterfully began moving them down the field and eventually into Eagles’ territory. But then facing a second-and-17 on the Philadelphia 45-yard-line with 41 seconds left, Cam was forced to take off and run, gaining five yards. Carolina didn’t get the next snap off until nearly 30 seconds had come off the clock. At this point, Newton needs to be thinking field goal, meaning he should have thrown a quick-out to the sideline to pickup a handful of yards and stop the clock — like Tony Romo suggested. Instead, he looked for Russell Shepard beyond the first-down marker and couldn’t complete the pass. This resulted in Ron Rivera opting to throw a Hail Mary instead of attempt a 57-yard field goal, which would have put them up 13-10 heading into the locker room.

My second issue is very similar. When the Panthers, down by five, got the ball back with 5:49 remaining in the game, Cam moved the offense 36 yards in just over two minutes by taking the underneath throws. Then, after converting on a fourth down, Newton decided he needed to go for it all, throwing three consecutive long-balls. On the first, he should have been picked off; on the second, he waited too long and then threw an uncatchable ball; and on the third, he launched a prayer that was intercepted by the waiting arms of Jalen Mills. The former MVP spoiled his multiple opportunities to win the game.

Jonathan Stewart: D

Not only did Jonathan Stewart basically hand the ball over to the Eagles on what was Newton’s second INT of the game, but the power back amassed negative four yards on eight carries last night.

Yeah, the Eagles’ front four is pretty dominant, but Stewart is just not the same back he once was. It’s time for the Panthers to find ways to utilize Christian McCaffrey more.

Star Lotulelei: F

I wish I had some clips to show exactly how poor of a game Star Lotulelei played last night, but that’s how invisible he was: there are none. The only evidence I have that the DT even played last night is one assisted tackle in the box score, and the fact that Pro Football Reference says he played 68-percent of the Panthers’ defensive snaps.

For the team’s sake, hopefully the former first-round pick is phased out in favor of a more recent first-round pick: Vernon Butler.

Panthers’ Betting Outlook

The Carolina Panthers are a good team, but not a great team. However, it may not take “great” to win the NFC South this year. The Falcons’ offense is not the same without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays, and their defense is not good enough to win them games; Jameis Winston is still not ready to carry the Bucs into the playoffs; and Drew Brees still doesn’t have the help of a serviceable defense in New Orleans.

Carolina has the best defense in the division, and their offense has the potential to be very good, too. Add in a much more favorable schedule than the Falcons, and I’m loving the Panthers at +250 — a number available on most of our trusted sportsbooks — to win the NFC South. That said, keep an eye on the health of Luke Kuechly, who’s in concussion protocol. The lynchpin of the Carolina defense has suffered multiple concussions in his career and an extended absence could be devastating.