EAGLES (4-1) VS. PAN­THERS (4-1)

THURS­DAY, 8:25 P.M. E.T., BANK OF AMER­ICA STA­DIUM, CHAR­LOTTE uTV: CBS/NFLN/AMA­ZON

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - LEADING OFF - Wentz, LeGar­rette Blount, Wen­dell Small­wood Corey Cle­ment Cam New­ton Rivera la Chris­tian McCaf­frey Ben­jamin Dick­son Ron Mike Shu- Jonathan Ste­wart Kelvin Ed Devin Funchess Greg Olsen Player to watch: Pan­thers TE Dick­son. Num­ber crunch­ing: 1. Rus­sell S

An­nounc­ers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolf­son, Jay Feely

About the Eagles: The Eagles’ suc­cess largely de­pends on sec­ond-year QB

who found his groove with four touch­down passes and 304 yards in a Week 5 wireto-wire 34-7 vic­tory against the Ari­zona Car­di­nals. He’s work­ing hard to be­come a bet­ter down­field passer and is mak­ing strides in mas­ter­ing the nu­ances of sit­u­a­tional foot­ball — red zone, third down, two-minute and four­minute of­fense, etc. If the Eagles con­tinue to get good of­fen­sive line play and pro­duc­tion from their run­ning back-by-com­mit­tee ap­proach with

(when healthy) and and their de­fen­sive front makes up for some de­fi­cien­cies on the back end, the Eagles will be hard pressed to re­lin­quish first place in the NFC East.

About the Pan­thers: All eyes are on Carolina but for vastly dif­fer­ent rea­sons than when QB made a sex­ist re­sponse to a fe­male re­porter’s ques­tion. It is the lat­est bump in the road for New­ton, who con­tin­ues to work through off­sea­son shoul­der surgery while wrestling with the wishes of coach

and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor to scram­ble less. The in­te­gra­tion of ver­sa­tile RB (he scored his first NFL touch­down in a 27-24 win at the Detroit Lions) with vet­eran RB is be­gin­ning to take bloom while WRs

and and TE are pick­ing up the slack in the ab­sence of in­jured TE (bro­ken foot). The front-seven (six sacks against Detroit) con­tin­ues to be a force.

Matchup to watch: Blount vs. Pan­thers MLB Luke Kuechly. Brute strength vs. brute strength, the Eagles’ lead­ing rusher against the Pan­thers’ undis­puted de­fen­sive leader. Blount (6-0, 250) ex­cels in short-yardage and goalline sit­u­a­tions, as does Kuechly.

Olsen’s re­place­ment is get­ting in­volved in the pass­ing game and build­ing trust with New­ton. Dick­son caught five passes for a ca­reer-high

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

175 yards against Detroit, in­clud­ing catch-an­drun plays of 64 and 57 yards.

Touch­downs scored by Carolina in two home games this sea­son. The Pan­thers’ lone TD came on a 3-yard keeper by New­ton in a Week 3 loss.

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Bat­tle sta­tions: If the Pan­thers’ front seven can con­tain the Eagles’ run­ning game and make it one-di­men­sional, as it did against Detroit, the pres­sure falls squarely on Wentz.

2. Go deep: Look for New­ton to take his shots down­field with Ben­jamin, Funchess,

and Dick­son. With­out in­jured CB (an­kle), the Eagles’ de­fense has strug­gled against the deep pass and ranks among the NFL’s bot­tom tier in pass­ing yards per game (283.2).

3. Game of feet: Each team has re­li­able, strong-legged kick­ers. Philadel­phia’s

nailed a fran­chise-record 61-yard field goal to beat the New York Giants in Week 3. Carolina’s booted a 48-yard field goal to beat the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in Week 4 and pro­vided all nine points in a Week 2 win against the Buf­falo Bills.

4. Bam Cam: Op­po­nents who have hit New­ton early and of­ten have had more suc­cess against Carolina. The Eagles are among the bot­tom tier in terms of sacks per at­tempt, but the key is to rat­tle New­ton’s cage with DE

(team-best 31⁄ sacks) lead­ing the charge. A healthy C (neck, missed last four games) would help sta­bi­lize the Pan­thers’ front wall.

Brian Allee-Walsh

ED DICK­SON BY TIM FULLER, USA TODAY SPORTS

Car­son

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