If you’re planning to bet on any NFL games this weekend, USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes says these three are the way to go.
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CHARLOTTE – Carson Wentz stood at midfield, hands on his hips, and slumped his head down to the ground. A couple of minutes remained.
On the previous series, one in which the Eagles had the chance to bleed the clock down to triple zeros, Wentz missed a wide open target and allowed Philadelphia to give the ball right back. It could’ve cost his team the game.
The Eagles, however, managed to escape with a 28-23 win over the Carolina Panthers. But it’s plays like those that Wentz has to make if he is to continue his ascent as a capable and consistent quarterback in the NFL.
Aided in part by a couple of interceptions that started back-to-back drives at Carolina’s 12- and 17-yard lines in the second and third quarters, the Eagles capitalized and played efficiently. With the victory, the Eagles (5-1) extended their lead in the NFC East.
Philadelphia’s defense held firm on two fourth-quarter drives that could have given Carolina the lead. Cam Newton threw an interception on the first and then could not convert a fourth down on the last.
Wentz completed 16 of 30 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
With the Eagles holding a five-point lead deep in the third quarter, Wentz faced a daunting third-and-16 from Philadelphia’s own 19-yard line. Wentz took the snap, felt the Panthers’ pass rush bearing down on him, and zipped a pass down the middle of the field to rookie receiver Mack Hollins for 20 yards.
The next play, Wentz lofted a perfectly-placed 37-yard pass to receiver Alshon Jeffery. After a no-gain, he found receiver Nelson Agholor for a 24-yard score on a slant that gave the Eagles a 28-16 lead.
Newton completed 28 of 52 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, but he threw three interceptions. On a third-and-10 with 3:16 to play in the game, Newton heaved a pass into double coverage and into the hands of Philadelphia cornerback Jalen Mills.
The loss was even more costly for Carolina.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly, the leader of the defense, left the game in the second quarter and was entered into the concussion protocol. It marked his third recorded concussion in as many seasons, after he missed nine games over the past two seasons.
All three of Philadelphia’s touchdowns came after Kuechly left the game.
The Eagles host the Washington Redskins in Week 7’s Monday night game, while the Panthers travel to Chicago to face the Bears Sunday.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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