Eagles-Panthers predictions by our (cough) experts

NBC Sports Philadelphia Staff
NBC Sports Philadelphia

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

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