CHARLOTTE -- A city that has a sports bar on every corner and tables filled with Eagles fans is the right kind of place to be on a free afternoon watching the NFL leading into a prime-time spotlight.
Really, though, Sunday began at 9:30 a.m. with the live stream on Yahoo of the Buffalo-Jacksonville game in London. It was a terrific way to rise and shine and watch the NFL, and the quality of the video was high and the game, won by Jacksonville, was fun to watch.
As the Eagles prepare for the Panthers in this very telling Sunday night game, I've got some thoughts on the challenge for the Eagles and on what transpired on a busy Sunday of football ...
- Buffalo came back from a 27-3 deficit and a turnover-filled first half to take a fourth-quarter lead on Jacksonville, but the Jags came back, led by quarterback Blake Bortles. I'm not sold on Bortles, but he looked great on that drive and delivered a beauty of a pass for the winning points. The Bills are so undisciplined and it cost them in this game. Quarterback E.J. Manuel was awful in the first half but came back to play a good second half, but in the end four giveaways doomed the 3-4 Bills. I expected more from Buffalo's defense. At one point, Jacksonville went more than 14 minutes without a first down, but Bortles closed strong with the winning drive.
- Eagles fans want Detroit to continue losing. Why? The Eagles own Detroit's third-round draft pick next spring, and that could be very early in the round. Philadelphia doesn't have a second-round pick, having traded it to St. Louis to help acquire Sam Bradford, but they have extra picks in the fifth round (from Pittsburgh in the Brandon Boykin deal) and in the seventh round (from Arizona in the Matt Barkley trade).
- Maybe the Saints are pretty good, after all. They rebounded from losing at Lincoln Financial Field to beat Atlanta and then destroyed the reeling Colts in Indianapolis. That New Orleans defense has gotten its act together since the Eagles went up and down the field on them.
- Ugly game in Kansas City between the Chiefs and Steelers. Neither team trusts its quarterback, which in Kansas City's case is scary since Alex Smith is the starter. Landry Jones was overmatched for Pittsburgh. Boring game.
- Bill O'Brien has a mess on his hands in Houston. The Texans lack diiscipline and they didn't play very inspired football against Miami. The Texans have no quarterback and no chemistry. Meanwhile, Miami has life under new head coach Dan Campbell. The Dolphins are the next team into Philadelphia in a few week. We'll see how Campbell's magic is working leading into that game. No doubt, though, Miami looks like a completely different team with a new head coach.
- Todd Gurley is an awesome running back for St. Louis. He brings so much energy and power in the running game. Watched Nick Foles for about the third time this season and he just doesn't look very comfortable throwing the football down the field. He's living on screens and checkdowns.
- Washington looked like it was going to pack it in early against Tampa Bay, so credit to Jay Gruden and his players for a good comeback in that game. Kirk Cousins looks good when he has a pocket and some room to throw those shallow crosses and simple routes.
- Teams really are having a lot of trouble converting third-and-short situations around the league. Run blocking is at a premium in this league.
- Nothing official yet but I expect Mychal Kendricks to play against Carolina and team a lot with Jordan Hicks at inside linebacker. Hicks is the calming influence here. Kendricks is going to be a ball of energy. He needs to read his keys and not get too hyped. Quarterback Cam Newton is going to try to win with bootlegs and multiple formations.
- Why do I think the Panthers are going to try to get wide receiver Devin Funchess really, really involved tonight? The Eagles need to keep an eye on him.
- Michael Oher plays left tackle for Carolina and the Eagles have to win on that side with Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Win, and win big. That should be a significant advantage for the Eagles defense.
- Whatever the Jets are doing defensively against the Patriots, let's hope Bill Davis and his coaches can duplicate when the Eagles play at New England. New York's defense is keeping the Jets in that game.
- I know the Eagles receivers are criticized for a lot of dropped passes, and they need to be more consistent, but I saw a lot of dropped passes around the league on Sunday.
- Julio Jones is in a different class at wide receiver from anybody in the league right now. His ability to go up and get the football, to use his body to separate, his great hands and his breakaway speed make him so special.
- Riley Cooper needs to be a down-the-field threat tonight, and the Eagles have to find a way to force the Panthers linebackers to cover off the line of scrimmage. You could see the Eagles spread the field a lot tonight.
- Most important lineman tonight is center Jason Kelce. His ability to get to the second level blocking in the running game will be huge.