NFL MNF: Eagles vs Panthers

Written by Rohit Ghosh

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AccuScore’s Super computer has picks against the spread, on totals, and on the money line for tonight’s Monday Night Football game; also, the computer already has expert picks for every game in week 13. NFL Expert Picks page.
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Monday Night Football: Bottom of the Barrel
Philadelphia Eagles vs Carolina Panthers

This week, Monday Night Football takes us to Philadelphia as the Carolina Panthers (2-8) get set to face the Eagles (3-7) in a showdown of possibly the two most underachieving teams in the league. These two teams have the worst records in the NFC. As somebody on Twitter said, “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty would be the perfect soundtrack for both squads. With quarter back Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy ruled out for the Eagles, Carolina has a shot at getting a win and being the final straw that broke the camel’s back for Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

AccuScore simulations project a Carolina win 51.3 percent of the time, covering the -2.5 spread 48.2 percent of the time. The average score of the simulations comes out to 22.5 – 22.2 indicating the safer bet would be to take the Eagles and the points. The total for the game is set at 40.5, and the simulations went OVER nearly 60 percent of the time.

Note: The total has gone OVER in 4 of Philadelphia’s last 6 games when playing Carolina.

Carolina, losers of seven of their last eight, is coming off a 27-21 overtime loss to Tampa Bay. In five of their last six losses, they had the lead at some point in the game. The Panthers are ranked 18th and 16th in their passing and rushing games, respectively, but overall their offense is ranked just 22nd. The team, led by quarter back Cam Newton, has taken a huge step back from last season to this one.

The game plan for the Panthers this week, just like most weeks, is to run the ball. Philadelphia’s run defense (19th in the league) has given up 100 or more yards rushing in six straight games, all of them resulting in losses. The formula to beat the Eagles has been simple and proven; no reason to go away from what seems to work. Carolina ran 34 times against the top-ranked Tampa Bay run defense last week, and should try and match that total tonight.

AccuScore simulations project nearly 61 rushing yards on just 8 carries for Newton, the team’s leading rusher. Running back Jonathan Stewart is projected to rush for 56 yards on 12 carries. While the data doesn’t indicate Stewart has a good chance of getting a TD, he did have one in last week’s game. He has not broken the 100-yard mark for a single game all season, but the Philly rush defense makes this a favorable matchup for Stewart.

Newton is also projected to throw for 224 yards with a passer rating of 72.1. According to the simulations, he has about the same chance of throwing an interception as he does a touchdown. Philadelphia ranks 13th in the league in pass defense, giving up 222 yards per game. His primary targets all season have been wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and tight end Greg Olson. Smith, who has only scored once all year, is projected to catch for 66 yards on 4 receptions. He is projected to get just 0.3 TDs this game, meaning he most likely isn’t going to find the end-zone. LaFell is one Panther having a good season, and has scored three touchdowns so far. He is projected to catch for 38 yards on between two to three receptions. Olson has scored a touchdown two of the last three times he has faced Philadelphia; he is projected to get 34 yards on 3 receptions.

Rookie quarterback Nick Foles will look to bounce back for the Eagles. Last week he threw interceptions on the first two possessions and fumbled a total of three times in a blowout loss to Washington. With McCoy out, Foles won’t have a safety blanket in the backfield. He is projected to throw for 251 yards with a passer rating of 84.1. Both Foles and Newton, according to simulations, are likely to throw both a touchdown and an interception.

The Carolina defense will look to pressure Foles from the opening snap. Eagle quarterbacks have thrown 14 interceptions this season, and lost 6 fumbles. Philadelphia is last in the NFC (second worst in the NFL) in turnover ratio at minus 14. Philadelphia has to play a mistake-free game if they want to keep it close, and make sure their defense makes some sort of impact on the field. They are fourth worst in the NFL at creating turnovers, better than only the likes of Indiana, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

With McCoy out as their main running back, Bryce Bowen will get the majority of carries. He is projected to rush 15 times for 61 yards. Dion Lewis is projected to get 33 yards on 8 carries. Carolina is 20th in the league in rush defense, but McCoy being out takes away Philly’s advantage there.

Things are bad for both teams, but definitely worse for Philadelphia. The turnover battle should be the deciding factor and I do not trust the Eagle defense to force any. I am taking Carolina, 20-13.