CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Just think: We get another enticing Thursday night matchup.
A week after the Patriots beat the Buccaneers in a tight prime-timer, division leaders Philadelphia and Carolina go at it in Charlotte.
These two are tied with the Packers for the best record in the NFC at 4-1. The Panthers have been particularly impressive with road wins at New England and Detroit, and the Eagles might be arriving a year ahead of schedule as they sit atop the NFC East.
Philadelphia ranks first in third-down efficiency (53.4 percent), with Carolina second (50 percent). The Eagles have scored at least 20 points in nine consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. (Hint on our pick, maybe: We think they will get to 20 again.)
Cam Newton might be struggling off the field with unwise comments, but behind center he has completed 77 percent of his passes for 671 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in the past two games, those wins at the Patriots and Lions. He also has both Carolina TDs rushing.
"We went through a rough patch early on with the quarterback because he was still working himself back into football shape," coach Ron Rivera said.
"He had to get that arm strength back. The shoulder was getting tired quickly because it hadn't been conditioned the way it needs to when you practice as little as he did at training camp. So now he's starting to feel better and better and stronger and stronger."
Carolina is ranked fifth in the AP Pro32 and is a 3½-point favorite over No. 3 Philadelphia. The winner must be considered a dangerous playoff contender.