Panthers at Eagles: 3 Things to Watch For on Monday Night

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The Week 10 Monday Night Football matchup is between two 2013 NFC playoff teams in the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Panthers (3-5-1) are squarely in the mix in the NFC South despite their losing record, and the Eagles (6-2) are one of the top contenders for the top overall seed for the NFC playoffs.

Neither team is particularly strong defensively, but both teams have the ability to score in bunches, giving this game the potential to end up being a shootout. Expect to see both teams come out with a serious sense of urgency in this one. The Panthers can jump into a tie for first in the NFC South and the Eagles can keep pace with the rest of the top contenders in the NFC with a win. Here’s a look at three things to watch for when the Panthers travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles on Monday Night Football.

All statistics are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.

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How will Mark Sanchez perform as a starter for the Eagles?

Sanchez never lived up to his lofty draft status with the New York Jets, but there was never any doubting his natural talents and ideal quarterback measurables. When Eagles starter Nick Foles went down against the Houston Texans in Week 9, Sanchez stepped in and performed quite admirably in leading the Eagles to a 31-21 win over the Texans.

With a full week of preparation as the starter, Monday night will be Sanchez’s first opportunity at resurrecting his career as a starting quarterback in the NFL, and there may not be a better offensive system in the league for him to do in than in Chip Kelly’s. With Foles likely missing four to six weeks, the Eagles’ playoff hopes are riding directly on the shoulders of Sanchez. If things click for him in Kelly’s offense, the Eagles will remain one of the NFC’s best teams. If not, they will likely be home for the playoffs.

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Can the Panthers offense turn things around?

Over their last three games, the Panthers have averaged 12 points per game. Not surprisingly, all three games resulted in Carolina losses. Their running game ranks 26th in the NFL, and to be blunt, they should be a lot better than they are. With both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams now healthy and arguably the best running quarterback in the league in Cam Newton, there is no excuse for the Panthers not to have a dominating running game going forward.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, they haven’t been much better through the air. They rank 20th in the league in passing yards per game in large part due to Newton’s inconsistencies. His top target is Kelvin Benjamin, a rookie who is incredibly talented but raw. If the Panthers are going to make a serious run at the NFC playoffs, they will need their offense to turn things around, and given the Eagle’s subpar defense, Monday night will give them the opportunity to do just that.

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Will whoever has the ball last win this game?

The answer to this question depends on how well Sanchez and Newton play. Carolina has had a hard time slowing down anybody in 2014, and the explosive Philadelphia offense should have no issues moving the ball on them. The Eagles have been up and down defensively, giving up the ninth-most yards per game in the NFL in 2014. If Newton and the Panthers offense can get on a roll early, this has the makings of a shootout. If not, the Eagles could run away with this one, even with Sanchez at quarterback.