2012 Week 12 NFL Picks: Carolina Panthers @ Philadelphia Eagles Vegas Odds and Predictions – Free NFL Picks 11/26/2012: Monday night’s game between the Carolina Panthers (2-8) and Philadelphia Eagles (3-7) can only be dubbed the battle of the NFL’s biggest disappointments. Both teams entered the year with playoff expectations, and both were even trendy picks to make Super Bowl runs. Well, neither team has exactly lived up to the hype. At this point, both would be hard pressed to make the postseason even if they won all of their remaining games. I guess the silver lining entering Monday’s matchup is that somebody has to win. Mired in a six-game losing streak and battling major injuries, the Eagles are three-point underdogs at home.

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Both teams are a shell of what they should be on the offensive side of the ball. Despite plenty of talent, Carolina and Philadelphia currently rank 27th and 31st in points per game. At their best, the Eagles are an excellent running team with an explosive passing game. However, horrible offensive line play and poor decision by quarterback Michael Vick have hamstrung Philadelphia all year. Worse yet, Vick is out with an injury for Monday’s game, and workhorse running back LeSean McCoy is out, as well, leaving rookie QB Nick Foles under center. For Carolina, a colossal step backward by sophomore QB Cam Newton has been the biggest problem, but the ground game as a whole has struggled. The Panthers were the best power running game in the NFL last year while Newton was a big way waiting to happen. Neither has been the case in 2012.

Defensively, both teams are below average and equally mediocre at defending both the run and the pass. Entering Monday’s game, the Eagles rank 22nd in points allowed, 12th against the pass and 18th against the run. Meanwhile, the Panthers rank 21st in points allowed, 17th against the pass and 19th against the run. Shockingly, the Panthers have had the much better pass rush despite the Eagles leading the NFL in the category just one year ago. Neither side has been great at forcing turnovers, but if there is a bright spot for either team, it is Carolina rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly. He is currently third in the NFL with 98 tackles.

The Panthers Win If:

Carolina’s pass rush has been solid all year, and the Panthers defensive front needs to take advantage of this favorable matchup. If Carolina’s defense spends plenty of time in the Eagles’ backfield and in Foles’ face, an already struggling offense is going to have trouble putting any kind of points on the board. Meanwhile, Newton and the offense have to get back to pounding the ball on the ground. More importantly, Newton needs to avoid the turnovers that have plagued him all year. Killing scoring drives and giving the Eagles a short field is a recipe for a disaster, but if he plays smart, efficient football, the Panthers should be able to take care of the injury-riddled Eagles on the road.

The Eagles Win If:

If Philadelphia is going to win, Andy Reid has to change his pass-first game plan a bit. The Eagles tried to have Foles lead the offense last weekend against Washington, and the end result was an ugly 31-6 loss. A solid performance from backup running Bryce Brown would go a long way to helping the cause, and Philadelphia needs to find creative ways to get explosive receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin the ball in space. Defensively, the Eagles have to prey on the mistake-prone Newton to set up their offense with favorable field position. At the end of the day, the Eagles’ best chance of winning hinges on their ability to force turnovers while remaining mistake free themselves.

Bottom Line:

Both of these teams have been train wrecks this season, but only the Eagles have two devastating injuries on top of all their other issues. Philadelphia is averaging less than 17 points per game, and taking Vick and McCoy away from the offense isn’t going to help matters. Meanwhile, Carolina’s lone defensive strength is its pass rush, and pass protection just happens to be a major weakness for the Eagles. Throw in the fact that Reid has always seems to stick with his pass-heavy philosophy, and Foles is likely headed for a long night. Carolina isn’t a good team by any means, but the overall ineptitude of the Philadelphia offense is going to hand Newton and company enough scoring chances that even the Panthers will be able to take advantage.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers (-3) Cover the Spread

Carolina Panthers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Line: Carolina -2.5
Total: Over/Under 41.5
Time: 8:30 PM EST on ESPN

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