Andy Schwartz

Eagles-Panthers predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Panthers predictions by our (cough) experts

Oh, the short weeks.

Aren't they fun?

Unlike some weeks, this Thursday Night Football game is a big one.

The 4-1 Eagles against the 4-1 Panthers (8:25 p.m./CBS).

Who will stay atop the NFC when the clock hits zero?

Our experts provide their predictions for Week 6:

Reuben Frank (5-0)
Can the Eagles keep it going? Things will be a lot tougher Thursday night than they have been the last three weeks, when the Eagles beat three teams with a combined 3-12 record. 

The Panthers are 4-1 with the NFL's No. 3-ranked defense and one of the league's most dynamic quarterbacks. It's a short week. The game's on the road. The Eagles are banged up. 

But you know what? I don't care. 

The Eagles are 4-1 also and I feel like they still haven't put together an all-around game, with big plays on both sides of the football. If they continue running the ball and stopping the run, they're going to be very tough to beat — for anybody. 

Tough game but I'm going Eagles.

Eagles 17, Panthers 16

Dave Zangaro (4-1)
The Panthers aren't the Chargers. 

So sure, the Eagles were able to go to California a couple weeks ago and get a big road win against Los Angeles. Winning this game in Charlotte against the Panthers on a short week is a completely different animal. 

Like the Eagles, the Panthers are also 4-1, except their last two wins came at New England and at Detroit. Maybe it'll help the Eagles that the Panthers had to come back from Detroit to play on a short week. But that cancels out against a team traveling to play on Thursday. Home teams win over 61 percent of Thursday Night Football games; it's a bigger advantage than normal. 

If the Eagles find a way to pull out a win, it would establish them as one of the best teams in the NFC. But this is going to be too hard without Lane Johnson. Remember, the Eagles are 2-8 without him since the beginning of 2016. 

I think the Birds keep it close, but close doesn't get it done. 

Panthers 24, Eagles 21

Derrick Gunn (5-0)
Carolina is coming off impressive back-to-back road wins at New England and Detroit. Cam Newton appears to have his 2015 groove back. In his last two games, Newton has completed 77 percent of his passes with six TDs and one INT. 

The Eagles totally dominated Arizona, but this is an upgrade in competition. The Birds could use Fletcher Cox in the trenches. He was a full participant in practice on Tuesday but his availability for Thursday night is unknown as a game-time decision. 

The Birds could use another one of those steady run games to keep the Panthers' defense on its heels. This game will be won in the trenches. The Panthers like to get physical on both sides of the ball, and the Eagles are determined to match them blow for blow. 

In the end, Carolina delivers the knockout punch.

Panthers 31, Eagles 24

Ray Didinger (5-0)
Carolina has played its best football on the road, winning at San Francisco, New England and Detroit. The Panthers have been less than inspiring at home, squeezing past Buffalo (9-3) and getting hammered by New Orleans (34-13). So the Eagles have that going for them, which is nice. But does it really apply to tonight's game at Bank of America Stadium? I'm not sure it does.

Newton makes the Carolina offense go and he is red hot, coming off the wins over the Patriots and Lions in which he threw for more than 300 yards in each game. It took him awhile to get over the loss of his favorite target, tight end Greg Olsen (broken foot), but he is spreading the ball around to rookie Christian McCaffrey (27 catches), Devin Funchess (24 catches, three touchdowns) and Ed Dickson (175 yards vs. Detroit). Newton is completing 68 percent of his passes after completing just 53 percent in a miserable 2016 season.

The Eagles are playing very well themselves and they thoroughly dominated Arizona on Sunday, but the short week, the travel and the loss of Johnson tilts this one in Carolina's favor.

Panthers 27, Eagles 24

Andrew Kulp (5-0)
Tough matchup to get a read on, but the Eagles are hitting the road on a short week, and Newton is red hot. 

Hard not to take the Panthers — only a year removed from a trip to the Super Bowl — over the upstart Eagles. Their secondary is still a concern and will have its hands full with Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and Funchess.

Panthers 26, Eagles 24

Corey Seidman (3-2)
Short week, no Johnson … I still want to go with the Eagles in this spot but it just feels like the McCaffrey breakout game. I don’t see Jonathan Stewart doing much against the Eagles but McCaffrey is going to be tough to stop in the red zone with all the other threats Carolina poses (Newton's running, Benjamin jump-balls). If the Eagles were at full strength (with Johnson and Cox), I think they’d win this game, but alas. 

Panthers 24, Eagles 23

Andy Schwartz (5-0) 
Don't like the situation here.

1. Thursday night game.

Completely agree with Rob Ellis. The turnaround is too short, and the product suffers because of it.

2. On the road.

It's not Seattle or Kansas City, but still.

3. Against a rejuvenated Newton.

Newton after a rough first two weeks has found his mojo, beating up the Patriots and Lions in consecutive weeks. And doing so without tight end Olsen.

4. No Johnson

Hopefully Big V can keep it up against the Panthers, who are tied for third in the league in sacks with 17. (The Eagles are tied for 12th with 12.)

5. Maybe no Cox.

He's a game-time decision and even if he plays, will he be 100 percent? Holding him out and giving him another week and a half of rest before the Monday nighter at home against Washington would make sense.

Panthers 23, Eagles 20

Sixers, Joel Embiid agree to 5-year, $148M extension

Sixers, Joel Embiid agree to 5-year, $148M extension

Updated: Oct. 10, 12:18 p.m.

As good as the Sixers expect Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz to be, Joel Embiid is the keystone of the franchise.

Hence the reason Embiid nicknamed himself "The Process."

Now he's paid accordingly.

The Sixers and Embiid have agreed to a five-year, $148 million extension.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

The Sixers and Embiid had until Oct. 16 to agree to an extension; otherwise, Embiid would have become a restricted free agent following the season. Had that occurred, other teams could have made offers, but the Sixers would have had the right to match. 

Now, there will be no offers. No chance another team offers more than the Sixers are willing to pay. Instead, the Sixers are banking that Embiid is the player who showed so much potential in just 31 games last season — and that he'll stay healthy enough to prove it (see story).

If he avoids a major injury this season, Embiid will have a chance to earn another $30 million. Per Wojnarowski, the deal allows Embiid to earn the maximum permitted under the designated rookie scale extension, or "the super-max." Embiid could earn up to $178 million over the life of the deal if he reaches certain incentives this season (i.e. Defensive Player of the Year, league MVP or is named to the All-NBA first, second or third teams). This additional amount represents 30 percent of the team's 2018-19 salary cap (for more, if you dare, delve into the 5th year, 30 percent max criteria.) 

What's more, the Sixers will receive salary cap protection should Embiid miss significant time because of injury, according to Wojnarowski. Given the risk involved with this decision, such a clause obviously makes sense.

And based on all of the above, so does this:

Injuries forced Embiid to miss his first two NBA seasons and limited him to just 31 last season. Still recovering from a knee injury, Embiid has yet to play this preseason but has begun playing 5-on-5. He is traveling to Boston tonight and should be with the team at practice Tuesday (in Boston) (see reaction from teammates on Embiid).

Following the Sixers' loss to the Celtics Monday, they have two more preseason games before the regular-season opener Oct. 18 at Washington. Embiid said last week he has a "pretty good" chance of playing in a preseason game. They play the Nets on Long Island on Wednesday and the Heat in Kansas City on Friday.

Play in Long Island? Eh. But Kansas City? Now that's a possibility, especially considering the day before, the Sixers practice at Kansas, Embiid's old stomping grounds. 

(Update: Embiid on Tuesday was declared probable to play against the Nets.)

Donovan McNabb meets Carson Wentz, gives playoff prediction

Donovan McNabb meets Carson Wentz, gives playoff prediction

Think the Eagles are a playoff team?

Donovan McNabb does. 

"Absolutely," McNabb said while visiting the Eagles' locker room after their 34-7 razing of Arizona (see breakdown). "It's the funny thing about the NFC East. You really can't tell until about Week 12 or Week 13 because they pound each other so much. I think they have everything they need to make it to the playoffs, and it's going to be a great year."

Sixty-nine percent of teams winning four of their first five games have made the playoffs (234 out of 339). However, the Eagles are one of the 105 teams that failed to make the playoffs after a 4-1 start (2014 when they finished 10-6).

But that year, they didn't have Carson Wentz, who picked apart the Cardinals and became the first Eagles QB to throw four touchdowns in a game in Philadelphia since ...

McNabb, who did it in 2008 in another rout of the Cardinals, 48-20, on Thanksgiving. McNabb always could throw a great deep ball, and if there's been one area of concern with Wentz, that's it.

Not Sunday (see story).

Wentz threw a pretty ball over the middle to Torrey Smith for a 59-yard score. Then he hit Nelson Agholor, who used a couple jukes to finish a 72-yarder and capped with a tribute to one of McNabb's former deep ball targets, DeSean Jackson.

The last Eagles QB to throw two touchdowns of at least 50 yards in a game? McNabb, who did it in 2006 against Washington.

"It's been impressive the way he's been playing this year," McNabb told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn. "I know people think I've been down on him a little bit, but the thing I wanted to see was after Week 4. After Week 4 of last year, things kind of changed. And you can see they're continuing to rise. I like what I'm seeing from the passing attack."

For McNabb, one of the most memorable moments of the day came when he sent his son over to Wentz with a ball to be autographed.

"I might sell it in 20 years, make me some big money," McNabb said. 

"It's an experience for my kids. My kids were all born here while I was playing for the Eagles. My son, same locker, came in, and I had both of them just sitting there with me. I think it was after a loss. I was sitting in the chair in the same locker. They were sitting behind me. It's an experience they can continue to grow with. To follow a guy like Carson — he's got a promising career."

The feeling was mutual.

"I’ve met Donovan before. He’s a great dude," Wentz said. "Now to meet his kids, that was really cool. That was really cool and it’s cool to see him come back too, come back to a game and still show his support for the team and for the city.”

As quarterbacks, McNabb and Wentz share one trait: mobility. When Wentz eluded several defenders before hitting Agholor for a 58-yard touchdown in the season opener against Washington, it brought back memories of McNabb's 14.2-second scramble and heave to Freddie Mitchell at Dallas in 2004.

While both can escape pressure, McNabb sees one key difference in their means of doing so.

"I had a little bit more pizzaz. I had more swagger," he said jokingly. "But again, it doesn't matter how you get it done. He's getting it done. No one really expected it, but the whole thing about it is, he's a ballplayer. There's a reason he went No. 2."

Just like McNabb.