Kickoff: Monday, December 19, 8:30 PM EST
Location: FedEx Field
Television: ESPN (Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)
Radio: Redskins Radio Network, Westwood One Sports
Odds: Redskins (-6.5), O/U: 51
Last Week: The Redskins handled their business against the Eagles as the Panthers did the same with the Chargers.
Matchup History: Washington leads the all-time regular season series 7-5, but Cam Newton has won all three of his match ups.
2016 Rankings: (Yards Gained/Allowed):
Washington – Offense (2nd); Defense (26th)
Carolina – Offense (19th); Defense (23rd)
Carolina’s Strength: It is no surprise that Carolina has a strong run defense when you look at the makeup of their roster. Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short are two massive bodies in the middle, weighing in at a combined 630 pounds, and they make the jobs of the Panthers stud linebackers even easier. If Luke Kuechly makes his return from a concussion against Washington, then he along with Thomas Davis will reunite as one of the best linebacking tandems in football. Both of them are athletic, cover a lot of ground quickly, and are sure tacklers. As a result, it is no surprise that the Panthers are the fifth best team against the run by allowing just 90.2 yards per game on an average yards per rush of 3.7, which is good for sixth best. When asked about Kuechly, Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay said, "he is truly an extension of their coaching staff and his command and understanding and what he is able to do defending the run and the pass is impressive."
Carolina’s Weakness: The biggest reason the Panthers letting Josh Norman go is a story is because they are currently struggling in the secondary. Unlike their stout front-seven, the Panthers are currently allowing the third highest pass yards per game. 272.4, ahead of only Tennessee and Atlanta. Their secondary features two rookies starting at cornerback in James Bradberry and Daryl Worley that have been victims of multiple quarterbacks throughout the year. It is easy to want to be balanced between pass and run, but Washington should be able to have their way with the defending NFC champs through the air much in part because their replacement of Norman was two rookies.
Prediction: In 13 games this season, Norman has recorded 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one interceptions. Those play making numbers may seem a tad down because Norman's receiver is rarely targeted, but I have an inkling that Cam Newton will try to test his former teammate. When asked if Newton will target him, Norman replied "I hope so" with a grin on his face. I suspect Newton will test Norman early and immediately regret doing so as the All-Pro corner will record an interception or a forced fumble in the first half. Carolina will adjust and begin shredding the non-Norman players on the Redskins defense on their way to a spoiler victory.
Final score: 30-26, Carolina.
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.
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