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Monday Night Football Preview: The Return of the Sanchize

Mark Sanchez is once again a starter in the NFL. How will he fare against the Carolina Panthers?

The time has finally come. After eight days of anticipation, Mark Sanchez Day is here. I'm assuming all government offices are closed today. Soak it all in, folks.

When the Philadelphia Eagles take the field tonight against the Carolina Panthers, it will be the first time Sanchez has been the starting quarterback for a team with a winning record after Week 3 since the final game of the 2011 season. That was at the tail-end of a three-game losing streak that kept the Jets out of the playoffs after back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances. Which team started that losing streak? The Philadelphia Eagles.

After Dallas's win yesterday, the Eagles need a win to stay in first place in the NFC East. The Panthers could claim the top spot in the NFC South with a win because the entire division hates winning. This is a big game. Who comes out on top? We can help answer this question using the numberFire Game Projection available to premium members.

How Will the Philly Offense Fare with Sanchez?

Right when the Eagles get an offense line not composed of the cast of The Walking Dead, they lose Nick Foles. Perfect timing. I'm sure LeSean McCoy owners are stoked.

Not all hope is lost. As I wrote earlier this week, numberFire's projections don't hate Sanchez as much as you may think. I won't regurgitate that whole article, but basically the conclusion was that, because Foles's performance had been below average prior to the injury, the offense shouldn't drop off too drastically under Sanchez.

For this game specifically, Sanchez is projected at 259.75 yards on 31.86 attempts (8.15 yards per attempt) with 1.67 touchdowns and 0.85 interceptions. The dangerous part here for a guy as prone to turnovers as Sanchez is that the Panthers have six interceptions in the past five games. The only game in which they didn't have an interception in that stretch was when they were facing Aaron Rodgers. The defense overall isn't great (they rank 21st in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per Play, a numberFire schedule-adjusted efficiency stat you can read more about in our glossary), but they do create turnovers. Sanchez had an affinity for those in New York.

As for the rest of the offense, things could be worse. Shady is projected at 85.80 rushing yards, 14.19 receiving yards, and 0.62 total touchdowns. This would actually be lower than what the Panthers have been giving up recently. Over their past seven games, lead backs are averaging 117.71 total yards and 0.86 touchdowns per game versus Carolina. LeSean be drooling.

Jeremy Maclin freaked out last week to the tune of 158 yards and two touchdowns. Seventy of those yards came while Foles was still in the game. Maclin was targeted on four of Sanchez's 22 attempts, but he caught all four for 88 yards and a touchdown. Maclin is slated for 5.43 receptions, 83.13 yards and 0.72 touchdowns this week. He's a nice little toy for Marky Mark to play with.

Can Cam Newton Rebound From Last Week?

Last week was the perfect matchup for Cam Newton: playing the New Orleans Saints' defense at home. Everything was primed for that break-out we had been waiting for. Then he went out and was 10-28 for 151 yards and an interception. Good job, good effort!

Now, Newton faces a Philly pass defense that ranks 10th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per Play. What should we expect from him and the Panthers' passing game?

Remember that discussion we had about turnovers with Sanchez? Well, here we are again. Newton is projected for 269.02 passing yards, 1.32 touchdowns and 1.24 interceptions. He has thrown exactly one pick in each of his last five games. Things are looking up for him to keep that streak chugging this week.

The main victim of SuperCam's Week 9 implosion was Kelvin Benjamin. After posting either a touchdown or 90 yards in six of his first eight games, Benjamin was held to just two receptions for 18 yards on 10 targets. I sobbed openly.

numberFire's projections suggest that Benjamin is due for a bit of a bounce back tonight. Benjamin is down for 4.94 receptions for 73.58 yards and 0.47 touchdowns.

Despite their above-average NEP numbers, the Eagles have still allowed the fourth-most points to fantasy wide receivers this year. That could mean good things for Benjamin, as the rest of the receivers are pretty much straight donkey doo. Either way, don't expect other-worldly efficiency from the Panthers' passing game this evening.

Can the Panthers Pull Off the Road Upset?

The Eagles are favored by seven at home. The Panthers are coming off of a demonic game last Thursday. This game has the potential to be a blowout.

For those of you that have already lost all hope for the fake pigskin this week (me) and are just looking for a decent game, don't give up yet. There's still a chance this puppy could shape up nicely.

Part of the game projection on numberFire is a list of similar games. One of the similar games is from 2000 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers entered the game favored by three at home, but the Jaguars (representing the Panthers) left good ol' Three Rivers Stadium with a 34-24 victory.

In that game, the Steelers had a string of eight drives that finished as such: punt, interception, field goal, fumble, end of half, punt, fumble, fumble. By the end of that string, the Jaguars had a 34-10 lead in the third quarter. Lesson: don't fumble! It's all good, though; Sanchez only fumbled 11 times his last two years with the Jets.

Another reason for Jacksonville's victory was Fred Taylor losing his dadgum mind. Taylor had 30 carries for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding one receiving touchdown. It was the only 200-yard game and only four-touchdown game of his career.

Call me crazy, but I don't think the Panthers will have a running back post 234 yards tonight. Outlandish statement, I know. DeAngelo Williams is projected at 33.74 yards, Jonathan Stewart at 24.44, and Cam is at 29.89 yards on the ground. But this game does still show one thing: if the Panthers can make the Sanchize channel his Jets days, they can certainly stay in this one.

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