December 19, 2016
The Washington Redskins are hanging on to a lead by percentage points due to their tie over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers for the 6th and final playoff spot in the NFC. A win tonight would extend that lead to a half game with just 2 weeks to play, and they’ll need that cushion with a game against the 10-4 Giants looming in week 17. NFL experts are expecting Washington to win this showdown with the reeling Carolina Panthers easily, but as we’ve seen all season long…..anything can happen.
After a remarkable 15-1 regular season and a march to the Super Bowl last year, the Panthers have had everything go wrong in 2016. Losing 5 of their first 6 games put Cam Newton and company in a hole that was too big to climb out of, especially since their defense seems to be a shell of what they were. Many believe that losing All Pro defensive back Josh Norman has been a big part of their demise. However, the injuries and the fact that their offense has not played even close to the way they did last season is a more viable explanation. The Panthers playoff hopes have been over for weeks, which puts them in a “nothing to lose” mentality. That could be dangerous for the teams they face over the last 3 weeks.
The Redskins issues have come on the defensive side of the ball. They have scored more than enough points to be at 9-4 or better, yet any inability to make key stops at critical points in games has cost them on several occasions. Kirk Cousins has solidified himself as a top tiered quarterback in this league. His 23 touchdowns and QB rating above 100 put him in elite status, and he’s done this without much of a running game. Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson have formed a mediocre running back tandem that does little to put fear into opposing defenses. They have combined for slightly under 900 yards and 6 touchdowns, which means that they aren’t very reliable in the red zone. Cousins may be put in a position to once again win a game with his right arm if Newton and the Panthers put up points the way they’re capable of.
Football handicappers have Washington listed as 6.5 point favorites tonight with a total hovering around 50. This has all the makings of a shootout that comes down to the final possession. Tune in for what promises to be an entertaining game that is much closer than the analysts predict.