Quarterback – Edge: Eagles. Donovan McNabb is head and shoulders better than Jake Delhomme, who has suffered injuries in recent years and is not as effective with the ball. McNabb may throw the ball in the dirt, but he doesn’t turn it over.
Running Back – Edge: Panthers. Brian Westbrook hasn’t played since last year and is coming off of ankle and knee surgery. We won’t know how healthy and effective he is until 1 p.m. Shady McCoy looks like a good second round pick, but he is a rookie. For Carolina, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are good runners, and Stewart is a beast in the red zone, piling up 10 scores last year.
Wide Receiver – Edge: Eagles. Steve Smith is among the league’s best and the Eagles need to keep him in check. The rest of the WR corps lacks depth. Muhsin Muhammad is big, but old. The Eagles need to pay attention to him, but not double team him. The Eagles have speed, speed and more speed with Jackson, Curtis and Maclin. Jason Avant is a nice possession receiver and Hank Baskett has great red zone size. As a unit, the Eagles have the edge.
Tight End – Edge: Eagles. Brent Celek is the best pass catching tight end in this game.
Offensive Line – Edge: Panthers. The Eagles unit has Jason Peters and Stacey Andrews coming back from injuries, and experiencing their first year in this offense. Winston Justice starts for Shawn Andrews and will surprise people today. This is not your Osi Umenyiora version of Winston Justice. The young guy has learned and matured. The Eagles group is missing two starters in Shawn Andrews and Todd Herremans. The Panthers feature Jeff Otah (whom the Eagles traded for the pick used to acquire Peters), and the line has blocked well the last couple of years. Due to consistency, we give the edge to Carolina today.
Defensive Line – Edge: Eagles. Trent Cole is a Pro Bowl caliber player for the Eagles and tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley can stuff the run and provide penetration on the inside. The Panthers feature Julius Peppers and not much else worth mentioning.
Linebackers – Edge: Panthers. The Birds are without Stewart Bradley for the season and Joe Mays is injured. Omar Gaither is the lone MIKE backer left. He lost the job two years ago for a reason. Na’il Diggs is ready to man the middle for Carolina.
Defensive Backs – Edge: Eagles. Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell lead the charge for the Eagles, and team up with Sheldon Brown to form a trio of hard hitters. Rookie Macho Harris steps in for departed legend Weapon X, Brian Dawkins. The Eagles must give Harris help so he doesn’t look like Quentin Demps against the Cardinals last year. The Panthers don’t come close to matching the Eagles unit.
Special Teams – Edge: Push. Both teams feature great kicking games with John Kasay and David Akers. Ellis Hobbs could give the Eagles a tiny edge in the return game.
THE PICK: Carolina 23, Eagles 20. This game will come down to who controls the line of scrimmage better. At the end of the day, the Eagles line hasn’t played together much during the preseason and is missing two starters. How well the Birds can protect McNabb is nothing better than a guess. On the other side, the Panthers offensive line can move the pile, and the Panthers runners can control the clock when given the opportunity. Time of possession is crucial in this match-up, and we see the Panthers winning that battle and the game.