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NFL Preview - Carolina (2-8) at Philadelphia (3-7)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The matchup between the lowly Carolina Panthers and the hapless Philadelphia Eagles could serve as the sequel to "Dead Man Walking."
"Dead Men Walking" starts filming in South Philadelphia on Monday night when a hostile home crowd awaits the embattled Andy Reid, who will trot out his 3-7 Eagles against his old assistant, the equally troubled Ron Rivera, and his 2-8 Panthers.
"You go play," Reid said when asked what it will be like to play in front of an angry mob. "You make positive things happen as coaches and players. Make plays, make positive plays. Fans like that. That's what they want to see. I've always said they're on the same page with all of us. When we're stinking up they understand that. When we're doing well they understand that too."
All you really need to know about this game is both head coaches will likely be looking for work in just over a month.
Reid's 14-year tenure in Philadelphia hit rock bottom in Landover back on Nov. 18 when Robert Griffin III threw for 200 yards and a career-high four touchdowns on 14-of-15 efficiency, while rushing for 84 more as the Washington Redskins dispatched of the reeling Birds by a 31-6 margin.
Making his first NFL start in place of the concussed Michael Vick, Nick Foles finished a dreadful 21-of-46 for 204 yards and two interceptions for Philadelphia, which has lost six in a row for the first time under Reid and for the first time since dropping seven straight to end the 1994 season.
A pair of Alex Henery field goals accounted for all of Philadelphia's offense against the 'Skins. LeSean McCoy, meanwhile, registered 67 yards on six receptions and 45 rushing yards on 15 carries before leaving late after absorbing a hit to the helmet.
"I know we're letting the fans down and the city down," Reid said. "I completely understand that. I completely understand how they feel on this. I feel it from the football team, our coaches and players. There are no excuses for it."
National observers, who aren't around Reid on a daily basis, often wonder why Philadelphia turned on a coach who has been so successful. But, the veteran mentor has always struggled with the public relations aspect of his job, upsetting the Philly faithful time and time again with his arrogance and trademarked "I've got to do a better job" shtick.
The hubris was turned to 10 against Washington when Reid refused to admit his mistake of leaving McCoy in the game late. Perhaps the Eagles' best player, McCoy suffered a concussion when he was drilled by Washington safety Madieu Williams with just 1:45 remaining in what was already a settled game.
"We were trying to catch up and win the game," Reid said when asked why McCoy was kept in so late in a blowout loss.
Repeated calls for Reid's resignation during the week consumed the Philadelphia market but the veteran mentor, who still has one year left on his contract after this season, wasn't about to leave millions on the table and made it clear he won't walk away
"I think that'd be a cop-out," Reid said of resigning. "That's not how I see things. That's not the way I'm wired. We're going to keep battling and do it as a team. I'm not going to tell the guys one thing and then do the other."
Things really aren't any better in Charlotte as the Panthers continued their dismal season in Week 11, faltering late and blowing an 11-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation before falling to Tampa Bay in overtime when Josh Freeman found Dallas Clark down the left sideline for the deciding touchdown in a 27-21 Bucs win.
Cam Newton finished 16-for-29 passing for 252 yards and a touchdown while Brandon LaFell caught five passes for 93 yards and a score for the Panthers, losers in two straight and seven of their last eight.
"This is as bad as it gets. We had every opportunity to win," said Rivera. "When you have an opportunity to close it out with a four-minute offense you can't take negative plays and unfortunately we did. You have an opportunity to stop them and for whatever reason you don't recognize the formation and don't make the play."
Rivera, who was Reid's linebackers coach in Philadelphia from 1999-2003, admitted this week he didn't know if he would keep his job after the season based on recent conversations with team owner Jerry Richardson.
"It's tough when you lose (because) things aren't as good as they are when you win, obviously," said Rivera, who is 8-18 as Carolina's coach. "Food doesn't taste right. It's difficult to communicate with people looking them in the eye and talking to them."
The Eagles lead the all-time series with Carolina 5-2 and the Panthers have lost all three meetings since winning at Philadelphia in the 2004 NFC Championship Game.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Vick and McCoy have already been ruled out on Monday night, taking the Eagles two biggest offensive playmakers off the field.
Foles remains the starter at quarterback and Bryce Brown, a talented but very raw rookie running back, should get his first starting assignment since his senior year of high school back in Kansas in 2009.
Add that to the fact Philadelphia has been missing All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters (Achilles) all season and has subsequently lost center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd Herremans to injury and you'll understand just how difficult it's become to move the ball on a consistent basis in Philly.
"It looks like he's more comfortable in the offense every week," Reid said when talking about Brown. "He's doing a nice job in pass protection. That wasn't his thing when he first came here. He's doing better there. Better recognition of the blitzes. Then he's a patient runner and then when he goes, he goes and he goes hard. He's a big body. A physical player."
Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott also once worked as Reid's defensive chief before being replaced after the 2010 season.
"Sean is doing a nice job (with Carolina)," Reid said. "Their defense is actually a very good defense. They've got two good defensive ends (Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy), two veteran defensive tackles (Ron Edwards and Dwan Edwards) that are big, strong, physical guys. Their linebackers are young guys who can run around [with] very good quickness. Safeties are solid and the corners are solid. They're good football players."
Six of the Panthers' eight losses this season have been by six points or less, and Rivera's club has led in the fourth quarter of four of those games, including last week's setback to Tampa Bay.
Carolina hasn't been able to finish and a lot of that can be traced to the sophomore slump on Newton, who has thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for four after combining for 35 TDs as a rookie last season.
Newton will never get a better chance to turn things around. He will be facing an Eagles pass defense which has surrendered 11 touchdown passes and recorded no interceptions over the past four weeks. In fact, opposition QBs have rung up a gaudy 143.6 passer rating against Philadelphia over that span.
Despite its poor record Carolina has been much more competitive than the Eagles, who have been outscored 127-59 in four losses since their bye week.
"I don't know how it can get much worse," Eagles tight end Brent Celek said of his team's troubles. "It makes me sick."
Unfortunately for Celek it can get worse and it probably will on national television Monday night.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 20, Eagles 17
11/26 09:03:11 ET