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A Short Week And A Very Tall Challenge

Posted Oct 9, 2017

It’s quiet early on this Monday at the NovaCare Complex. The 24-hour rule for enjoying the dominating win over Arizona on Sunday is reduced to a 12-hour version. There is no time to bask in the 34-7 victory, not with the short week here and a Thursday prime-time game in Carolina just days away ...

It’s quiet early on this Monday at the NovaCare Complex. The 24-hour rule for enjoying the dominating win over Arizona on Sunday is reduced to a 12-hour version. There is no time to bask in the 34-7 victory, not with the short week here and a Thursday prime-time game in Carolina just days away.

Every team faces scheduling quirks in the course of an NFL season and the Eagles have one staring them in the eyes. Three road games in the first month of the season are one thing. At least there is a cadence to the travel.

With a Thursday road game following a Sunday victory, everything is out of whack. Monday equals Thursday in terms of game prep. Bodies are aching. Players have done everything they can to recover – replenishing fluids and nutrition, massages, cold tubs, stretching. Head coach Doug Pederson will conduct walk-through-level practices this week.

And then they’ll suit up on Thursday with no excuses and a welcomed reward on the other side: a mini-bye weekend after playing in Carolina with a Monday date home against Washington on October 23.

A win on Thursday night would be huge. Carolina won in Detroit on Sunday, 27-24. Quarterback Cam Newton is rocking again behind a playing-well offensive line and the Panthers have weapons all over the place on offense. This is going to be a great football game and a true how-resilient-are-the-Eagles kind of defining moment against another 4-1 squad.

A team that has had significant injuries occur in the first five weeks of the season goes into Carolina looking to beat the odds and win on the road on Thursday night (although to be fair, the road teams have won three of the first four Thursday night NFL Network games. Last season, road teams were 4-10 on Thursday nights).

Some thoughts ...

    • Clearly, an issue to monitor is the status of right tackle Lane Johnson, who exited Sunday’s game with a head injury. If he isn’t cleared to play on Thursday, the Eagles would likely go with Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle and Vaitai would see a lot of veteran Julius Peppers, who at age 37 is having a wonderful season with 5.5 quarterback sacks and a recent performance that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. And the Eagles would have to get Isaac Seumalo ready to play as a backup tackle, likely. There are only eight linemen on the active roster, with two (Dillon Gordon and Josh Andrews) on the practice squad. Jason Peters is going to be taxed having to play on such a short week. This is a challenge against a really good Carolina defensive front.

    • Carolina’s offense, as we know, runs through the myriad talents that Newton brings to the table. Oddly, the Panthers aren’t running the football well at all – they gained just 28 yards on the ground in Detroit – but Carolina has accumulated 806 total net yards and has scored 33 and 27 points, respectively, in back-to-back road wins at New England and Detroit the last two weeks.

    • Talk about your big wide receivers ... the Panthers have Kelvin Benjamin at 6-5, 245 pounds, and Devin Funchess at 6-4 and 225 pounds. On paper, the Eagles are able to match up with bigger-bodied cornerbacks in Jalen Mills (6-0, 191) and Rasul Douglas (6-2, 209).

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  • After doing an excellent job against pass-catching running back Andre Ellington (who had just three catches for 27 yards in the first half on Sunday, two in the third quarter, and four in blowout time in the fourth quarter), the Eagles face the speedy and elusive Christian McCaffrey on Thursday night. He has 27 receptions and scored his first touchdown against the Lions on a shovel pass. He is going to require some attention.

  • The unsung hero for Carolina has been tight end Ed Dickson, replacing standout Greg Olsen who is on Injured Reserve with a broken foot. Dickson had five receptions for 175 yards in Detroit. This is a guy who has not had more than 17 catches in a season in the four years he’s been in Carolina. Once upon a time, Dickson had 54 receptions with the Ravens (2011). Since then, he’s been quiet. Until now.

  • Last season, the Eagles converted 38 percent of their third downs. Not good. This season they rank first in the NFL in the category, converting on third down 53.4 percent of the time. “It’s something we work hard on in practice, as hard as anything we do,” tight end Trey Burton said. “We’ve probably been in too many third-and-long situations, so we need to be better on third downs but we’ve had a lot of success on third downs to keep drives alive.”

  • Carson Wentz on third down this season: 37 completions (first in league), 574 yards (first in league), 11.0 yards per attempt (first in league), six touchdowns (first in league), 30 passing first downs (first in league), and 137.8 passer rating (first in league). Wow!

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