With a rookie quarterback and a running back making his first start since high school, the Philadelphia Eagles will try for their first win in two months.
No wonder even the Carolina Panthers (2-8) are favored on the road.
The struggling Eagles (3-7) have lost six straight entering tonight’s matchup against Cam Newton and the Panthers. They won’t have Michael Vick or LeSean McCoy because of concussions, increasing the chances they can go O-for-October-and-November for the first time in coach Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure.
Oddsmakers have listed the Panthers as 3-point favorites, a rare occurrence for a team with the worst record in the conference. Perhaps the underdog role will get the Eagles going. Nothing else has worked in a season that began with Super Bowl expectations.
“Obviously, nobody wants to play the way we’ve been playing, nobody wants to coach the way we’ve been coaching,” Reid said. “We don’t want that. We owe it to each other, we owe it to this city to play better. As long as guys own up to that, coaches and players, that’s the way you get better and then you work on the things that you’re not doing well. Get yourself right.”
Nick Foles will be under center, making his second start in a row for Vick. Bryce Brown, a seventh-round pick who had 104 carries in college, takes over for McCoy.
Foles, a third-round pick, has a chance to show whether he can be Philadelphia’s QB of the future. Vick could be part of a massive offseason overhaul and fans have been calling for Foles to start since his impressive preseason.
Foles has been so-so in the past two games, compiling a passer rating of 58.9. Like Vick, he’s had the misfortune of playing behind a banged-up offensive line that’s missing four of its five starters.
The Panthers prepared all week for Vick and Foles. They learned that Vick would be out after their final practice but before their Sunday walkthrough.
“I think Nick Foles is athletic enough to give you some problems,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “He has a good arm, makes quick decisions.”
Meanwhile, the Panthers are close to full strength. They have no significant injuries, but are switching things up on the offensive line. Gary Williams, signed on Nov. 14, will start at right guard over Jeff Byers.
Carolina also has a new kicker, Graham Gano. He replaces Justin Medlock, who missed a 40-yard field goal in the first half of last Sunday’s overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
If this game comes down to a kick at the end, Gano thrives in those situations. He tied an NFL record with three overtime field goals for the Washington Redskins in 2010.
This will be a coaching reunion of sorts. Rivera was Philadelphia’s linebackers coach under Reid from 1999-2003. Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott spent 10 seasons with the Eagles.