The Carolina Panthers head into Philadelphia tonight to take on the Eagles in a matchup of two of the league’s most disappointing squads. Both teams were considered playoff contenders before the season, but have fallen on hard times; Carolina (2-8) are in a brutally tough NFC South and Philly dropped their last six to fall to 3-7.
Tonight’s game represents a chance for both teams to salvage something positive out of the rest of this season. The Panthers are one of the league’s most intriguing young clubs and will try to get back on the winning track so they have something to build off of for next year. The Eagles, on the other hand, will likely be undergoing a lot of changes this offseason and will get to take a look at two of their rookies that will start due to injuries. Running back Bryce Brown will start in place of LeSean McCoy and quarterback Nick Foles will start for Michael Vick.
All that being said, however, this game will be decided in the trenches and in the red zone. The Eagles are among the league’s worst red zone teams, ranking 30th in touchdown percentage (38.7 percent), and dead last with six red zone turnovers. Their struggles on the offensive line are a big reason for this. They rank 30th, averaging just 2 yards per carry once inside the 20, and have given up a league-worst seven sacks.
The Eagles’ woes this year play into the Panthers’ strengths. The Panther defense ranks eighth in the league in red zone TD percentage, allowing opponents into the end zone on just 45 percent of their chances. In addition to being stout defensively, the Panthers have also been efficient offensively inside of the 20-yard line. Carolina ranks sixth in red zone scoring, converting 61.5 percent of their opportunities into touchdowns.
Given these matchup issues, the Panthers should get the better of the floundering Eagles and potentially capitalize on Philadelphia’s consistent carelessness.