NFL Games of the Week: Eagles, Panthers square off in Thursday night showdown

By Joseph Fazio

Sports Blogger

@JosephDFazio

 

Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) at Carolina Panthers (4-1) (7:25 P.M., Thursday, CBS)

(Keith Allison, Flickr)

It’s safe to say most people did not think the Eagles were going to have this good of a start. After a disappointing rookie season for quarterback Carson Wentz, he has been able to take control of the Eagles’ offense. Through five games, Wentz has shown some of the best quarterback play in the NFL. Wentz sits in the top 10 for passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating. Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, Wentz had possibly the best game of his career, throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns. This season, Wentz’s favorite target has been tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz has become one of the best receivers in the NFL, averaging more than 12 yards a reception. The problem the Eagles have been frustrated with is their defense. Games against the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Chargers were too close because the defense was not able to stop opposing quarterbacks, allowing on average 299 passing yards. Going up against a strong quarterback in Cam Newton, the Eagles’ defense will have to change their game plan if they want to win.

The Carolina Panthers have put last season behind them and have had a stellar start. Newton has been passing the ball less frequently than prior seasons but has become more accurate, completing 68.3 percent of his passes. Tight end Ed Dickson has become one of Newton’s favorite targets, averaging 24 yards per reception. The Panthers’ defense has been in form this season, only allowing 274 yards per game. The Panthers have also improved their pressure on quarterbacks, combining for 17 sacks this season, which is third best. The Panthers’ offense will have no problem scoring against the Eagles’ defense, but the Eagles’ high power offense will cause trouble for Carolina.

Philadelphia 30, Carolina 24

 Los Angeles Rams (3-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) (3:05 P.M., Sunday, FOX)

Los Angeles and Jacksonville will be a defensive heavy match, most likely a low scoring game. The Rams are coming into the game with top 10 statistics in sacks, total tackles and interceptions. Quarterback Jared Goff has taken a bigger role in the Rams’ offense, compared to only playing in seven games last season. Through five games, Goff has already surpassed his total passing yards and touchdowns. Running back Todd Gurley leads the Rams with seven total touchdowns and has more than 400 rushing yards. Going up against a defense like Jacksonville, Goff and the Rams’ offense will have their biggest challenge.

Jacksonville by far has the best defense in the league. The Jaguars lead the league in sacks (20), interceptions (10) and defensive touchdowns (4). Defensive end Calais Campbell has been unstoppable on defense, recording 23 tackles and six sacks. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette sits second in rushing yards with 285 and first in touchdowns for running backs with five. The only vice this year has been quarterback Blake Bortles, who has been inconsistent in his passing. Against the Ravens in Week 3, Bortles threw for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Two weeks before, Bortles threw for 140 yards and only completed 42.9 percent of his passes against the Jets. Bortles will be the key player when going up against the Rams’ defense.

Los Angeles 24, Jacksonville 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) (e:25 P.M., Sunday, CBS)

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may be down to his last season with his performance in the first five games. Roethlisberger sits with six touchdowns, seven interceptions and has completed 61.5 percent of his passes. Running back Le’Veon Bell is having an average season with 515 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. The saving grace for the Steelers has been their defense. The Steelers’ defense, linebacker Ryan Shazier leading the way, are only allowing 17.8 points per game. The defense is currently third in the league with 17 sacks and sixth for forced fumbles with five. Going up against players like running back Kareem Hunt and quarterback Alex Smith will make or break the Steelers’ season.

The Chiefs are the best team in the NFL. Hunt, a rookie running back, seems to be the early favorite for the NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Rookie of the Year. Hunt has rushed for a league best 609 yards, 143 more yards than Fournette. Smith is having one of his best starts in his career throwing for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Chiefs’ defense has been able to rush the quarterback on almost every play but still allows opposing offenses to gain yards and go down the field almost every drive. Every game this year, opposing teams have not lost by more than two possessions. Looking at the next couple of games for the Chiefs (at Oakland, Broncos and at Dallas), the NFL may soon have no undefeated teams

Kansas City 29, Pittsburgh 20

ozone@ocolly.com

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