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Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Panthers

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Position Breakdowns: How the Eagles stack up against the Panthers

The Eagles and Panthers enter their Thursday night showdown with 4-1 records, though it won't quite be like looking in a mirror when they take the field. Though there are some similarities, these two teams are constructed a bit differently -- or at least, have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Actually, they are kind of the same when you think about it. Big, mobile quarterbacks surrounded by big playmakers at receiver and tight end, a power running game and quality offensive line. Stout defenses up front with questions in the back end. Coaching staffs that are doing some of their best work in the early portion of this season.

Yet, for all their comparisons, the breakdown gives one side or the other a fairly obvious edge at almost every position. Similar makeup, but different strengths and weaknesses. What will it mean when the Eagles and Panthers take the field?

QUARTERBACKS

Carson Wentz appears to be blossoming into the NFL's next elite quarterback, which is great news for the future of the Eagles franchise. Still, Wentz has a ways to go to reach Cam Newton's level. After a shaky start to the season coming off of shoulder surgery, Newton has been red hot the last two weeks, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 10.8 yards per attempt with six touchdowns and one interception, and running for 44 yards and a score in back-to-back wins. He's only one season removed from earning the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award and leading the Panthers to a Super Bowl. Wentz is on the right track, but he's not quite there yet.

Edge: Panthers

RUNNING BACKS

At this stage of their respective careers, LeGarrette Blount and Jonathan Stewart are very similar backs. They're big, bruising runners, and if either one gets into the open field, look out. Both are their 30s and don't pose much of a threat as receivers, though that's an area the Panthers may own an advantage. Eighth-overall draft pick Christian McCaffrey has proven an immediate weapon in the passing attack, with a team-leading 27 receptions for 237 yards and 1 touchdown. McCaffrey is their Darren Sproles. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Sproles is out for the year.

Edge: Panthers

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

There will be no shortage of massive targets on the field on Thursday night. Zach Ertz (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) is tied for third in the NFL with 32 receptions and seventh with 387 yards -- as a tight end -- and Alshon Jeffery (6-3, 218) is quietly having a nice year for the Eagles with 20 receptions for 246 yards. The Panthers feature Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 245) and Devin Funchess (6-4, 225), who have a combined 41 receptions, 541 yards and 4 touchdowns, although lack much depth behind their top two receivers. Prolific tight end Greg Olsen is on injured reserve, which is a huge blow. With Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor emerging as weapons for the Eagles, the decision is easy.

Edge: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINES

Even if five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil wasn't out with a neck injury for the Panthers, it would be difficult to give them the nod. The Eagles offensive line has simply looked like one of if not the very best unit in the league the last few weeks. Sure, Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaces Lane Johnson (concussion) at right tackle. Vaitai is also experienced, and the line didn't miss a beat last week when he entered the game. Even acknowledging both sides will be without a key member, the Eagles have done a superior job. Look no further than the rushing stats, where the Birds rank fifth in the NFL, and the Panthers are 19th.

Edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVENS

This is going to be difficult to evaluate, as Fletcher Cox is a game-time decision for the Eagles with a calf injury. Cox is one of the most disruptive players in the league, but has missed the last two games. The defensive line has held up fine without him, but has also benefited from going against some bad O-lines. Meanwhile, Carolina's front four sports three players with at least 3.0 sacks -- Mario Addison, Kawann Short and Julius Peppers -- compared to only Brandon Graham for the Eagles. Even if the clubs are even in the trenches, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis split six Pro Bowl selections between them, not to mention a Defensive Player of the Year award.

Edge: Panthers

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The Eagles have been pleasantly surprised by what they're getting out of Patrick Robinson. Robinson can play the nickel or move outside, and currently grades as one of the best cornerbacks in the league, while Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas are doing fine. The Panthers are getting nice work from second-year corner James Bradberry, but the rest of the secondary is suspect, especially with Kur Coleman out (knee). The safeties are the difference. Even with Coleman, Carolina is susceptible to the deep ball. The Eagles have Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod patrolling that area of the field, which is a comforting feeling.

Edge: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

There's no other way to say this: the Eagles special teams units have been incredible the past couple weeks. Field goals, punts, returns, coverage, you name it -- they have completed dominated the competition in every phase. On paper, they should do the same to Carolina as well.

Distinct edge: Eagles

COACHING

You have to hand it to Ron Rivera. The Panthers have been tough every year since they've been there, never winning fewer than six games in his first six season. They have four victories already, and are on pace for for their fourth playoff appearance in five years. There was some changeover on Rivera's staff with Doug McDermott leaving for Buffalo, but Mike Shula remains the offensive coordinator. Doug Pederson has been getting in a groove the last few weeks with the Eagles, but simply doesn't have the experience of Carolina's staff, while most probably wouldn't take defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz over Rivera in that role.

Slight edge: Panthers

OVERALL

Two evenly matched teams, both with some fairly distinct advantages in different areas. That makes it really tough to predict a winner. However, the Panthers may hold the upper hand in the two most important categories: quarterback and coaching. Wentz and Pederson may one day be on the level of Newton and Rivera -- that day may even come Thursday night. Right now, it's clear which is the more experienced, more decorated combination. If the Eagles are going to come out of Carolina with a win this week, Wentz will have to play to Newton's level, and Pederson must match Rivera and his staff call for call. That's going to be easier said than done.

Slight edge: Panthers

Conspiracy? NFL prematurely promotes Patriots-Vikings Super Bowl

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NFL / Facebook

Conspiracy? NFL prematurely promotes Patriots-Vikings Super Bowl

Somebody who works for the NFL jumped the gun this week in a promotion for Super Bowl LII.

This year's Super Bowl will feature either the Patriots or Jaguars taking on either the Eagles or Vikings. Unless there is some conspiracy afoot!

You see, the NFL posted an image promoting Super Bowl LII featuring only the Patriots and Vikings along with some head-scratching text. Just another attempt to disrespect the Birds!

The Facebook post you see a screen shot of below has since been deleted. It included the following text:

Your team is headed to Super Bowl LII...and you could too! When you donate to United Way, you could score 2 club-level seats to watch the PATRIOTS vs. the VIKINGS battle it out for the coveted Super Bowl title! But...that's not all! You could also WIN pre-game sideline access + other cool perks! Don't pass up this touchdown experience - donate TODAY for your chance to WIN big

Offsides!

So are the conference championship games fixed?!? Unlikely. What is more likely is some NFL employee in some marketing department jumped the gun and posted some planned copy before it was actually appropriate to post.

Via CBS/NJ.com

Jason Kelce has a message for dog mask wearers at NFC Championship

Jason Kelce has a message for dog mask wearers at NFC Championship

Dog masks at Eagles games? Are they good or bad? It's tough to say.

But many Philadelphia fans are into it, so we're running with it on Sunday when the Birds take on the Vikings in the NFC Championship game at the Linc.

Eagles center Jason Kelce joined Angelo Cataldi on the 94 WIP morning show and talked about what it was like to witness the wild 4th down stand to win the game against the Falcons last week. But he also spoke about the big game this coming Sunday with the Vikings.

Fans wearing dog masks in the stadium came up after a few of the Eagles adopted the underdog mentality quite literally.

Kelce had a message for fans with masks inside the Linc.

"A quieter crowd is always beneficial to the offense," Kelce said. 

"Take the dog masks off when the [Eagles'] defense is on the field. We need as much noise out there as we can get."

"If you really want to see a home field advantage, all you have to do is look at how much better a defense is at home or away. Our defense has been great everywhere for the most part but I think they've been averaging something like less than 13 points at home. Something crazy. The noise level affects offenses more. The fact that our crowd gets so into it when our defense is on the field it's hard for opposing offenses to function. We even got a little of that up at MetLife Stadium when Eli Manning was complaining."

You can listen to Kelce's full interview below (via CBS) and start training your screaming voice for Sunday now. Gonna be loud at the Linc.