Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-6.5, 51 o/u)
Washington cornerback Josh Norman will be donning his apron and chef’s hat Monday as he does his best to put revenge on the menu when the Redskins (7-5-1 SU, 9-4 ATS) host his former team, the Carolina Panthers (5-8 SU, 4-8-1 ATS) at FedEx Field.
Norman has to be smirking, watching Carolina fall from its perch as the NFC’s top dogs. Meanwhile, his Redskins are still squarely in the playoff hunt, just half a game back of the conference’s second Wild Card spot.
Washington was able to snap a mini two-game skid last Sunday by edging division rival Philadelphia (27-22) in a back-and-forth affair. The offense made some big plays – including an 80-yard TD from Kirk Cousins to DeSean Jackson – but wasn’t great, overall, totalling just 334 yards and going 2/7 on third down.
While the defense gave up some plays to Carson Wentz and the Eagles, it tightened up in the redzone, holding Philly to 1/4 inside the 20. (Washington was 1/1.)
The Panthers are coming off a skid-stopping win of their own. After dropping a tight game to the Raiders (35-32) and getting stomped by the Seahawks (40-7), Carolina rebounded with a 28-16 win over San Diego. It’s tempting to jump to the conculsion that Carolina dominated the game, looking at the scoreline; they raced out to a 23-0 lead, after all.
But, in reality, they were only good on one side of the ball. The defense generated five turnovers, and held San Diego well under 300 yards on the day (278). Reigning MVP Cam Newton struggled mightily once again, going 10/27 for 160 yards, one TD, and one pick. The running game wasn’t much better with 126 yards on 38 carries, averaging a measly 3.3 yards per carry.
If the offense can’t find its mojo this week, Carolina will need another stellar effort from the defense. The pass-first Redskins will be looking to exploit the Panthers’ sub-par secondary, which is giving up 272.4 passing yards per game (30th) and clearly misses Norman.
But Carolina’s offense matches up well with Washington’s D. The Panthers success last season was predicated on a dominant run game, and Washington struggles in the trenches, sitting 27th in Defensive DVOA against the run.
Ron Rivera will lean on his ground game in this one, preventing Norman from having much of an impact and taking the pressure off of Newton’s languishing arm. That should shorten up the game, keep Washington’s quick-strike offense on the sideline, and make for a tight one.
Take the Panthers to keep it close (especially since Luke Kuechly, the heart and sole of their defense, looks like he’ll be back in the lineup).
Pick: Carolina (+6.5)
Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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