The Carolina Panthers (2-8) will head north Monday night to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7) in a prime-time showdown between two struggling NFC teams that rank last in their respective divisions.
At the start of the season, the Eagles were certainly performing below their potential, but they still managed to secure victories in three of their first four games. But unfortunately for Philly fans, the team hasn't experienced a victory since Week 4.
With six consecutive losses, including a 31-6 embarrassment against Washington last week, the Eagles are struggling to find a rhythm on offense and have been abused on defense.
But their opportunity to end the rut has finally arrived, as the Carolina Panthers have been equally unimpressive.
The Panthers were viewed as an up-and-coming team following the stunning Rookie of the Year performance by Cam Newton in 2011, but their eight losses this season has shattered all optimism.
Carolina has dropped seven of its last eight and hasn't won a game since Week 9—a 21-13 victory over the Redskins.
This game will have no playoff implications, but sometimes football is at its best when two teams with nothing to lose face off with each other.
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: Monday, November 26, 8:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN, ESPN Watch (Live Stream)
Spread: Carolina -2.5 (Odds Shark)
At first glance, the spread for this game is somewhat shocking since few would argue that Philadelphia is the better football team with home-field advantage, but recent events have caused the scales to tilt in Carolina's favor.
QB Michael Vick and RB LeSean McCoy—arguably the two most important players on the Philly roster—are in danger of missing the game.
The team's website features both players on the injury report with concussions, but provides no official update on their status for Monday night (PhiladelphiaEagles.com). However, the assumption is that they'll miss the game, and there are reports that both players are still early on in the recovery process (NBC Philadelphia via Twitter).
Michael Vick has made some progress but, like LeSean McCoy, is still in phase 1 of his recovery from a concussion: cmcst.sn/aaboAN— Comcast SportsNet (@CSNPhilly) November 21, 2012
It will be very difficult for Philadelphia to outscore Cam Newton and the Panthers with their two most vital offensive weapons on the sidelines.
The Eagles will still show up to play, but it's difficult to put any faith in them given their current situation with injuries.
Over/Under: 41 (Odds Shark)
Both teams have been rather anemic on offense despite possessing a considerable amount of offensive talent.
The Eagles are currently second-to-last in the NFL with just 16.2 points per game, while the Panthers have been lackluster themselves with just 18.4 points per game (27th in the NFL).
When combining the two averages (34.6), the two teams are well below the current over/under. And considering Philadelphia is missing two key offensive player—Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy—the 41-point expectation is even more head-scratching.
Also, it's not as if either team has been on a recent offensive surge.
Carolina has not exceeded 25 points in the last six games and has scored 30 or more just once this season. Meanwhile, the Eagles have been held under 25 points every game this season.
All things considered, the "under" is certainly an attractive option for this game.
Eagles Injury Report (PhiladelphiaEagles.com)
WR Jason Avant (Hamstring)
DT Cullen Jenkins (Foot/Ankle)
RB Chris Polk (Toe)
RB LeSean McCoy (Concussion)
QB Michael Vick (Concussion)
Panthers Injury Report (Panters.com)
DE Antwan Applewhite (Hamstring)
LB Thomas Davis (Undisclosed)
DT Dwan Edwards (Ankle)
WR Armanti Edwards (Groin)
DT Ron Edwards (Undisclosed)
T Jordan Gross (Undisclosed)
G Geoff Hangartner (Knee)
G Amini Silatolu (Shoulder)
WR Steve Smith (Undisclosed)
TE Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles)
Nick Foles filled in at quarterback in place of the injured Michael Vick a week ago, and while he didn't have a standout performance, we can still take a look at which receiver he's likely to favor on Monday night.
Foles hit LeSean McCoy six times for a team high, but McCoy will be absent from the game. Instead, Foles will likely favor Brent Celek, who had five receptions last week for 42 yards.
With a backup quarterback running the offense and a limited ground game, the Eagles will likely execute a number of short and simple passes, which will include multiple looks at the tight end.
With this in mind, Celek will be relied on heavily and is an attractive fantasy option this week.
QB Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
Cam Newton is having a questionable sophomore campaign, but he still carries some fantasy value, especially if your regular quarterback is unavailable this week.
Despite his struggles, Newton has exceeded 200 yards in nine games this season, while he has a touchdown in each of his last three games—including a three-touchdown performance against Denver.
Newton has been a fantasy bust this season, but he's still too talented to give up on.
WR Brandon LaFell (Carolina Panthers)
Steve Smith left last week's game with a hand injury according to CBS Fantasy Football (via Twitter).
#Panthers WR Steve Smith apparently has a left hand injury and is getting it looked at in the locker room.— CBSFantasyFootball (@CBSFantasyFB) November 18, 2012
Smith eventually returned to the game, but his appearance on this week's injury report naturally causes some concern.
Brandon LaFell performed well in Smith's absence last week with 93 yards and a touchdown. Don't be surprised if the third-year player is once again the go-to guy on Monday night.
Keys to Philadelphia Victory
The Eagles are seriously debilitated at the moment with both Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy likely to miss the game with concussions.
Backup quarterback Nick Foles will have to shake off his two-interception performance last week and make big plays.
It's vital that Philadelphia comes out firing, allowing them to take an early lead. If that's the case, it will take the pressure off Foles and give him a chance to win the game with safe plays and slow-moving drives.
On defense, it's all about rattling Cam Newton and forcing him to make turnovers, which has been Newton's weakness this season.
Keys to Carolina Victory
It won't take much for the Carolina to outscore an Eagles team that is missing Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, but mistake-free football is still a necessity.
The Panthers don't need Cam Newton to enter beast mode and dominate the Philadelphia defense, but they do need him to avoid interceptions and display solid decision-making.
If Newton can show poise and avoid turnovers, it will greatly improve Carolina's chances.
Looking back, it's no wonder this game was highly anticipated and a no-brainer for the Monday Night Football schedule.
Both teams have an extraordinary amount of offensive talent and were expected to compete in their divisions, but they have been overwhelmed and incapable of developing solid chemistry.
Now, this is a matchup between two bottom-dwellers who are desperate for a solid finish, and a prime-time win on Monday night would be an ideal start.
But while both teams need this win, the Panther should be able to take control of the game given Philadelphia's current injury report.
Cam Newton and the Panthers will secure a victory despite the Eagles' home-field advantage.
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