Two seasons ago, Mark Sanchez was, arguably, the worst starting quarterback in the league. As the 2014 NFL season enters Week 10, the Philadelphia Eagles turn to Sanchez in their quest to contend for a Super Bowl.
Sanchez took over for an injured Nick Foles in Week 9, leading the Eagles to a 31-21 victory over the Houston Texans. The former New York Jets quarterback completed 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards, two scores and two interceptions. He’ll take over for the Eagles indefinitely, starting with a matchup against the Carolina Panthers on “Monday Night Football,” as Foles recovers from a broken collarbone.
With offensive weapons like LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles and Jeremy Maclin, Sanchez has a greater chance to succeed than he ever did with the Jets. Still, he’ll have to improve his play significantly if the Eagles want to maintain their first-place lead in the NFC East.
In his last season with the Jets, Sanchez ranked 31st among all starters, posting a 66.9 passer rating. He threw 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, averaging just 192 yards per game.
Sanchez doesn’t need to be spectacular in order for the Eagles to continue their winning ways. Foles wasn’t all that impressive before he got hurt, ranking 25th in the NFL with an 81.4 passer rating. A year after throwing just two interceptions, Foles has been careless with the football, leading the NFC with 10 interceptions.
Carolina has had their share of difficulties slowing down opposing quarterbacks. They are 26th in the league, allowing signal callers to post a 97.4 passer rating.
Running backs have had just as much success against the Panthers defense. Carolina ranks 26th in rush defense, allowing 131.9 yards per game on the ground.
Considering the way the Panthers have struggled and how LeSean McCoy has played in recent weeks, Philadelphia’s top running back could be in for a big night. McCoy played poorly in the first five games, failing to rush for more than 81 yards or 4.0 yards per carry in any game. In the last three games, McCoy has totaled 349 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per attempt.
The Panthers may need a big day from Cam Newton, in order to pull off the upset. Philadelphia has scored at least 20 points in every game this season, and Carolina has only won one of the six games in which they’ve surrendered 20 points or more. The over/under for the contest is 48 total points.
Newton has been less accurate than almost every starting quarterback this season. His 57.4 completion rate only ranks ahead of Geno Smith’s, and he’s thrown just three more touchdown passes than interceptions. Newton has just three games this season when he has completed 60 percent of his passes or better, and two of those games resulted in wins. His 257 rushing yards and two touchdowns have him on pace to set career lows in both categories.
Philadelphia is favored by 6.5 points, but they could end up winning by multiple scores. Four of Carolina’s five losses have come by at least 18 points.
PREDICTION: Philadelphia over Carolina, 34-20