Ea­gles and Panthers ready for prime­time

WIN­NER HAS TO BE CON­SID­ERED A CON­TENDER

Lethbridge Herald - - HERALD SPORTS -

Just think: We get an­other en­tic­ing Thursday night matchup. A week after the Pa­tri­ots beat the Buc­ca­neers in a tight prime-timer, di­vi­sion lead­ers Philadelphia and Carolina go at it in Char­lotte.

These two are tied with the Pack­ers for the best record in the NFC at 4-1. The Panthers have been par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive with road wins at New Eng­land and Detroit, and the Ea­gles might be ar­riv­ing a year ahead of sched­ule as they sit atop the NFC East.

Philadelphia ranks first in third-down ef­fi­ciency (53.4 per cent), with Carolina sec­ond (50 per cent). The Ea­gles have scored at least 20 points in nine con­sec­u­tive games, the long­est ac­tive streak in the NFL. (Hint on our pick, maybe: We think they will get to 20 again.)

Cam New­ton might be strug­gling off the field with un­wise com­ments, but be­hind cen­tre he has com­pleted 77 per cent of his passes for 671 yards, six touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion in the past two games, those wins at the Pa­tri­ots and Lions. He also has both Carolina TDs rush­ing.

“We went through a rough patch early on with the quar­ter­back be­cause he was still work­ing him­self back into foot­ball shape,” coach Ron Rivera said.

“He had to get that arm strength back. The shoul­der was get­ting tired quickly be­cause it hadn’t been con­di­tioned the way it needs to when you prac­tice as lit­tle as he did at train­ing camp. So now he’s start­ing to feel bet­ter and bet­ter and stronger and

stronger.”

Carolina is ranked fifth in the AP Pro32 and is a 3 1/2-point favourite over No. 3 Philadelphia. The win­ner must be con­sid­ered a dan­ger­ous play­off con­tender. PANTHERS, 26-23 KNOCK­OUT LEAGUE TIP

OK, the Steel­ers did us in, specif­i­cally Big Ben play­ing as he was col­or­blind and throw­ing all those picks. So if any­one still has faith in our choices here, go with BAL­TI­MORE only be­cause we’ve al­ready picked New Eng­land and Den­ver.

No. 7 New Eng­land (mi­nus 9 12) at No. 22 New York Jets

We ex­pect re­al­ity to set­tle in at the Mead­ow­lands. If the NFL has any re­al­ity this year. BEST BET: PA­TRI­OTS, 45-17 No. 19 Tampa Bay (mi­nus 2 12) at No. 26 Ari­zona Still not ready to trust Bucs on road.

UPSET SPE­CIAL: CAR­DI­NALS, 21-20

No. 30 New York Gi­ants (plus 12) at No. 6 Den­ver

Also were tempted to make this BEST BET with Gi­ants so banged-up and in­ept.

BRON­COS,No. 10 Pitts­burgh22-6 (plus 4) at No. 1 Kansas City

Afraid we didn’t learn our les­son with Steel­ers’ flop vs. Jaguars. STEEL­ERS, 24-23 No. 2 Green Bay (mi­nus 3 1-2) at No. 14 Min­nesota Pack­ers look bet­ter away from Lam­beau than at it.

PACK­ERS, 29-13 No. 32 Cleve­land (plus 10) at No. 18 Hous­ton

In­juries prob­a­bly will cost Tex­ans shot at di­vi­sion ti­tle. Won’t cost them much here. TEX­ANS, 23-10 No. 11 Los Angeles Rams (plus 3) at No. 13 Jack­sonville Two teams that have sur­prised so far.

JAGUARS, 21-16 No. 9 Detroit (plus 4 1-2) at No. 21 New Or­leans

Rested Saints get enig­matic Lions. Spread seems high, shootout likely. SAINTS, 34-31 No. 25 Mi­ami (plus 11 1-2) at No. 4 At­lanta An­other rested NFC South team ready to pounce.

FAL­CONS, 27-13 No. 31 San Fran­cisco (plus 9 12) at No. 15 Washington Nin­ers play­ing ev­ery­one tough, even if they can’t get Ws.

RED­SKINS, 26-20 No. 29 Chicago (plus 7) at No. 17 Bal­ti­more

Young man Tru­bisky, meet veteran sack­mas­ter Ter­rell Suggs. OUCH! RAVENS, 20-3

No. 28 Los Angeles Charg­ers (plus 3) at No. 20 Oak­land

Derek Carr’s re­turn key to Raiders’ chances Sun­day and be­yond. RAIDERS, 22-20 No. 27 Indianapolis (OFF) at No. 24 Ten­nessee, Mon­day night No Luck? No Mar­i­ota? No way we’re watch­ing.

TI­TANS, 20-13

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2017 RECORD: Last week: Against spread (103). Straight up (8-6) Sea­son To­tals: Against spread (37-36-1). Straight up: (46-31) Best Bet: 3-2 against spread, 32 straight up. Upset spe­cial: 5-0 against spread, 5-0 straight up.

NFL PICKS BARRY WILNER

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