KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
5th meeting. Series tied 2-2. The Panthers beat the Eagles 14-3 in last year's NFC Championship at Lincoln Financial Field to earn a trip to Super Bowl XXXVIII. Panthers cornerback Ricky Manning came up with three interceptions for the Panthers. Carolina sacked Donovan McNabb four times and limited him to 100 yards passing.
*2004 rankings: Panthers: offense 22nd (28th rush, 14th pass); defense 17th (31st rush, 4th pass). Eagles: offense 3rd (16th rush, 3rd pass); defense 16th (6th rush, 25th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
While the Eagles are fresh coming off their bye week, the Panthers are beaten up mentally following a poor start and hurting physically with WR Steve Smith, DT Kris Jenkins and RB DeShaun Foster among those who are out. RB Stephen Davis is expected back, but how much of the load he can carry remains to be seen. Carolina will have to pass the ball to stick around long, which means the offensive line must hold up against an Eagles defensive line that had been getting a strong push all season. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has completed just 51.9 percent of his passes and thrown nine interceptions in seven career games against John Fox-coach defenses. But this isn't the same defense that held the Eagles to three points in last year's NFC Championship Game. With Jenkins out, look for the Eagles to rely heavily on RB Brian Westbrook and attack the Panthers' struggling run defense.
» Panthers: The defense is allowing 159 rushing yards per game.
» Eagles: Are 5-0 in games following a bye week under coach Andy Reid. ... The defensive linemen have recorded 11 sacks after having 24 all of last season.
PREDICTION: Eagles 30-20
· WR Eugene Baker was released on Thursday.
· WR Jamall Broussard was signed off the Bengals practice squad and is likely to return punts for Carolina this week.
· RB Stephen Davis (knee) practiced on a limited basis Thursday and it appears he may play this week as long as he doesn't have any setbacks. The Panthers need him with DeShaun Foster out 6-10 weeks.
· RB Nick Goings would likely start if Stephen Davis does not play.
· RB Joey Harris could see some action if Stephen Davis does not play this week against the Eagles.
· RB DeShaun Foster (shoulder) is out 6-10 weeks.
· RB Rod Smart (knee) will not play this week.
· DT Brentson Buckner was limited in practice on Thursday, but said he plans to play. The Panthers will need him with Kris Jenkins out for the season.
· LB Mark Fields appears to be on the dark side of questionable this week. He remains a big question mark for the Panthers after sitting out the last two practices with back spasms.
· LB Brandon Short would start this week if Mark Fields isn't able to play because of back spasms. Short does not have as much speed as Fields and is not as good against the run.
· DT Omari Jordan is nursing an ankle injury, further weakening the Panthers depth at that position.
· DT Kindal Moorehead will start in place of Kris Jenkins.
· DT Damane Duckett is expected to see his most extensive playing time of his rookie season with Kris Jenkins out. Duckett is likely to join either Omari Jordan (questionable-ankle) or Jordan Carstens on Carolina's second-team line rotation.
· DE Mike Rucker does not have a sack through four games for the Panthers.
· CB Dexter Wynn did not practice again Thursday and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game. Wynn, who has an injured hamstring, played in the club's dime cover packages as the fourth corner.
· CB Matt Ware will replace injured Dexter Wynn in the Eagles' dime cover packages Sunday against Carolina. Ware was inactive for the Eagles' first four games.
· RG Jermane Mayberry continues to have some pain in his arm where he tore the bicep tendon three weeks ago. But he will play Sunday against Carolina.
· TE L.J. Smith, who is nursing a three-week-old shoulder contusion, practiced all week and is listed as probable for the Panthers game. Smith didn't have a catch in the Eagles' last game after catching 10 passes in the first three games.
· FB Josh Parry practiced again Thursday and is expected to play Sunday against Carolina. Parry sprained the MCL in his right knee two weeks ago against the Bears. He returned to the game, playing with a brace on the injured knee. He is expected to wear the brace again Sunday.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Panthers on Thursday released returner Eugene Baker and replaced him with Jamall Broussard, an undrafted rookie who has spent the early part of this season on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.
Broussard got a call Wednesday night from the Panthers and immediately flew to Charlotte to begin working with the Panthers.
Panthers coach John Fox said he hopes the 5-foot-9, 172-pound Broussard adds some big-play ability to Carolina's return game, something that has been missing all season.
"We felt like this guy (Broussard) had a chance to give us some explosion," Fox said.
Broussard said the coaching staff has told him he'll likely be returning punts this week against Philadelphia, but they haven't talked to him about kickoffs.
That means Carolina might use some combination of Keary Colbert, Ricky Proehl and Chris Gamble on kickoff returns.
Baker had limited success as a return specialist this year for the Panthers, averaging just 6.1 yards on punt returns and 19.5 yards on kickoff returns.
Broussard played college ball at San Jose State, where he topped the 50-catch mark in each of his two seasons there.
· In other news, Panthers running back Stephen Davis practiced Thursday on a limited basis, sharing reps with Nick Goings and rookie Joey Harris, who was elevated to the 53-man roster on Wednesday.
Davis is still listed as questionable on the team's depth chart, and coach John Fox offered no indication whether his Pro Bowl running back will play this week.
"He's questionable," Fox said.
Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner practiced and said he plans to play, but linebacker Mark Fields was held out again, meaning he may miss his second straight game on Sunday with back problems.
Rookie cornerback Matt Ware will get his first opportunity to play Sunday. Ware, the club's third-round pick out of UCLA, will replace another rookie, Dexter Wynn, as the club's fourth corner against the Panthers.
Wynn is listed as doubtful for the game. He injured his hamstring two weeks ago in the Eagles' win over Chicago and hasn't practiced this week.
The 6-2 Ware figured to be the club's nickel corner this season and maybe even challenge for a starting spot. But he was injured in the club's first preseason game and missed more than a month of practice.
"It's a waiting game," Ware said. "I try to get over there (near the defensive huddle) and listen to what's going on. But I try to stay out of their way and figure it out on my own."
The Eagles drafted Ware because of his size. The club's two starting corners, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, both top out at 5-feet-10, and defensive chief Jim Johnson wanted somebody who could match up with the league's bigger receivers.
But Sheppard and Brown have played well, and nickel back Rod Hood also has done a good job. Ware will be used in the Eagles' four-corner dime cover packages.
Said Brown: "He's a smart guy. He has the right attitude. He stays positive. I know he can play."