The Eagles have been here before. In the first year with Carson Wentz manning the quarterback position, the team was heading into their sixth matchup of the 2016 season with optimism at its highest point. Philadelphia was off to a surprising 3-2 start (nearly 4-1 if it weren’t for a Matt Prater field goal and a Darius Slay pick) and the young gunslinger was hitting his targets like he was Django. Through the first 5 games of 2016, Wentz threw for 1,126 yards compared to his 1,362 yard mark to this point in the young 2017 season. With the slight lead in yards for this season compared to last, there comes the slight lead in touchdown throws, with Wentz throwing ten this year and seven to this point last year. Wentz is also just as accurate, with three picks thrown this year and just one pick at this same juncture in 2016.
This 2017 Thursday Night matchup with the Carolina Panthers does have an air of something more to it for the Eagles, though. The Eagles are freshly placed as a consensus top five team in the NFL according to multiple power rankings. The defense is playing with a fervor unlike last year’s collective, especially with injury problems in key areas of the secondary. Although the statistics don’t bear out for the defense being elite, (the Eagles are 22nd in the NFL in terms of total yards allowed per game) they seem to benefit from the offense leading the league in time of possession and allowing for a slightly depleted unit to show the least amount of flaws as possible. This circles back to the Prince That Was Promised for the city of brotherly love. Carson Wentz has played the quarterback position with a blend of Vick’s creativeness with his legs, McNabb’s determination, and Foles’ accuracy. He uses this amalgamation of skills to thrive at moving the chains when it’s most needed. On third down, Wentz completes 71.1 percent of his passes. This is the one stat that truly sets him apart from his 2016 self, where he only completed 37.9 percent of his throws on the most crucial down. At the ripe age of 24, this is the time for Wentz to cement himself as a true MVP candidate against the likes of another top young talent in Cam Newton.
Both Newton and Wentz are coming in hot for this Thursday matchup, and like the Yankees capitalized on a short turnaround, the NFC rivals should remain hot and bothersome for their defensive counterparts. Wentz threw for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns last Sunday to Newton’s 316 yards and 3 ballots for six. We all know that the NFL is a quarterback driven league and the key for this game correlates with that mindset. The Panther’s defense in the air has been stifling, giving up just 194 yards per game, good enough to be a top five pass defense in a league predicated on such. Comparatively, the Eagles are ranked second in the league in terms of rushing yards given up, which is something Cam Newton relies upon to get his passing game going. Crowning the king of the NFC will depend on which defense makes good on their defensive strength.