Here we are in week #7 and it’s hard to say if the Panthers are progressing or struggling. We certainly know they aren’t winning despite having a top five offense. Carolina will host the Washington Redskins in a game that many believe the Panthers have a strong chance to win. After last week’s loss to Atlanta, things are looking a little shaky for the defense going against any run game. Washington is ranked #17 in run offense, which is only one spot behind Atlanta. This leaves questions as to whether or not Rivera’s new 3-4 defensive scheme is just what the doctor ordered for an ailing defense.
Both of the teams look pretty even in abilities except for the run defense. Offensively, the Panthers rushed for 139 yards last week against the Falcons in a 31-17 loss. If that number is reduced to 105 yards, which is the average rush yards Washington allows per game, it will be yet another tough test for Newton and the passing game. Since both teams are about the middle of the pack in passing defensive, it will be a day where the best QB wins. That bodes well for the Panthers as they will be seeing John Beck for the first time as starter for the Redskins vs. Cam Newton’s cannon and maneuvering pass game. The big success or fail of the day will be if Carolina can stop Washington’s 109 yards per game on the ground. Last week Washington only netted 42 yards rushing against the Eagles’ ‘Dream’ defense. While they’ve certainly lost their dreams for the playoffs they also held the Skins to 245 yards passing and Carolina on average only allows 219 per game.
Although not the most successful last week, Carolina’s running game was able to claim 10 of the total 24 first downs. This shows that the ground attack may not have been trouble for Atlanta, but it was working. Not only that, but JStew punched in a goal line TD when that responsibility has been given to Cam all season. However, they will continue struggling to get yards now that Jeff Otah is officially out for the season for the 3rd time in 4 years. Cam and the pass offense will have to find a way to get Steve Smith open this week. The amount of big time plays he can make are impossible to deny assuming he has the ball. If Cam can get Smith the ball downfield, Washington won’t have a chance in going blow for blow on offense. Legedu Naanee is playing better despite getting only 2 receptions for 31 yards last game. He is there on big 3rd down plays and needs to keep it up this week. This is a week where someone can step up big at the second WR spot and exactly when they need it before the bye week.
The Panthers have been on a bad luck streak in that all season they have played competitively against some of the best teams in the league yet managed to lose in the 4th quarter. Washington may not be one of those top teams, but they can certainly present a huge challenge to a defense that is still trying to define who they are. It’s ridiculous how some offenses look suspect until they play against Carolina. Chicago and Atlanta were two examples of that. When they play against Carolina all their problems magically disappear. The Panthers only need to do two things; plug up the middle and don’t get beat wide. The biggest yards this season have come from slant runs and misjudging how the runner comes off of the block leading to an often missed tackle. Also, just because they lost Beason and Davis doesn’t mean they lost the ability to tackle. It’s embarrassing and if they don’t know it by now, a loss to Washington should be the final wake up call.