KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET GAMEDATE: 12/04/06 SURFACE: Grass TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya SERIES: 6th meeting. Eagles lead series 3-2. The Eagles crushed the Panthers 30-8 at Lincoln Financial Field back on Oct. 17, 2004, a game in which Jake Delhomme threw four interceptions. That game came just 10 months after the Panthers beat the Eagles 14-3 in Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game to secure a spot in the Super Bowl.
2006 RANKINGS: Panthers: offense 24th (18th rush, 19th pass); defense 8th (14th rush, 8th pass). Eagles: offense 2nd (10th rush, 3rd pass); defense 15th (28th rush, 4th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME
With inconsistency plaguing the Panthers' offense all season, the main priority for Carolina's defense is pretty straightforward. When the Panthers hold their opponent under 100 rushing yards, they are 6-0; when they don't, they're 0-5. That statistic should be a good indicator again with the Eagles leaning more on RB Brian Westbrook following the season-ending injury to QB Donovan McNabb. Westbrook has a career-high three-game streak with at least 100 rushing yards, but to prevent the Panthers from loading the box Philadelphia needs QB Jeff Garcia to find a better rhythm in his second start. Offensively, the Panthers hope to get RB DeShaun Foster back in the lineup. The ground game has been sputtering, allowing defenses to focus on WRs Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson, but the Eagles are struggling to stop the run with small linemen and a front seven that isn't tackling well.
Panthers: Johnson needs three receptions to reach 800 for his career. ... QB Jake Delhomme has six TDs and two INTs with a 98.7 passer rating in three career Monday night games. Eagles: Westbrook is fifth on franchise history with eight career 100-yard rushing games. ... Have a league-best 55 plays of at least 20 yards.
--The Panthers are extremely high on rookie CB Richard Marshall, who may have played well enough to unseat starter Ken Lucas. Don't be surprised if Marshall remains the starter this week even with Lucas now healthy and no longer listed on the injury report.
--S Mike Minter was back at practice Thursday after taking a day off to rest.
--P Jason Baker leads the NFC in net average.
--RB DeShaun Foster practiced Thursday for the second consecutive day, and while he remains listed as questionable, there is little question he will play against the Eagles.
--FB Brad Hoover continues to be an effective option for the Panthers in short-yardage situations.
--WR Keary Colbert was inactive last week, raising questions about whether the team will part with the former second-round draft pick after the season. Colbert has just five receptions.
--LB Shawn Barber is listed as questionable for Monday night's game but did practice Thursday. He has an MCL sprain of his knee. Barber, who missed last week's game, thinks he'll be able to play.
--RT Jon Runyan is nursing a hamstring strain and is listed as probable, but he practiced Thursday and is expected to play Monday against Carolina.
--WR Donte Stallworth's cranky hamstring continues to make his availability and effectiveness a question mark. He's listed as probable for Monday's game. He played last week but had just two catches for 9 yards.
--RB Brian Westbrook's knee is holding up well despite 86 touches in the past three games. He is listed as probable for Monday's game and practiced Thursday.
--DT Brodrick Bunkley will have to impress in practice this week if he hopes to be activated for Monday's game against Carolina. Bunkley was inactive last week after missing the team flight to Indianapolis.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Cornerback Chris Gamble is eager to shake off a rough game last week in which he allowed two touchdown passes in Carolina's 17-13 loss to Washington.
One of those scores was 66-yard pass to tight end Chris Cooley with under five minutes to play, giving the Redskins the lead for good.
"It was frustrating," Gamble said. "It was man-to-man and I was playing outside leverage. I'd seen the ball come, and it was a good ball. He caught the pass and I missed the tackle, and he took it in for a touchdown."
The Panthers were hoping Gamble could take the next step toward becoming an elite cornerback in 2006 after two very good seasons.
He recorded six interceptions in 2004 and had seven more last year, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Gamble and fellow starter Ken Lucas had 13 picks between them last season.
This year, they each have two.
"I just have to make plays. I know (Lucas) has to make plays, too," Gamble said. "It's just the year. You can't get eight, six or seven picks every year. But we have five games left, and I have to keep playing hard and make plays."
All in all, Gamble isn't real pleased with his performance this season.
"No, I ain't. I can play better," Gamble said. "I've been giving up some plays. I have to make more plays. I haven't been making a lot of plays like I've been during the couple of years I've been here."
With Jeff Garcia replacing injured Donovan McNabb at quarterback, the Eagles offense has been more dink-and-dunk and less big-play.
Garcia has completed 63.4 percent of his passes since taking over for McNabb and has yet to throw an interception in 71 attempts. But he also is averaging just 4.6 yards per attempt.
Garcia has relied heavily on running back Brian Westbrook and tight end L.J. Smith, who have been on the receiving end of 25 of his 45 completions.
He has completed 13 passes to wide receivers Reggie Brown, Donte Stallworth, Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis, but only for 131 yards. That's just 10.1 yards per reception. In Sunday's 45-21 loss to the Colts, Eagles wideouts had eight catches for just 64 yards.
"You dial up what you see, and I thought he did a good job of getting eight different receivers involved in the plan last week," coach Andy Reid said. "I think as he continues to build and grow within what we are doing here, we'll expand it a little bit more with him and we'll get him more with the wide receivers."
Garcia echoed Reid's sentiments.
"I'm very comfortable, very confident in the guys that we have," he said. "As much as I haven't worked much with them over the past two months of the season, just based upon where our roles have been, I had plenty of time to work with them in training camp.
"I think that they do a great job of route-running and understanding our system, and now, it's just a matter of getting on the same page. And I feel that we're getting to that point."