Here is what you need to know on this Monday, December 19, four days before the Washington Redskins visit the Chicago Bears.
—Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Panthers, 8:25
—Days until: Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 5; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 13; Wild card playoff round starts 19
Injuries of note:
Out: LB Cravens (elbow/illness)
Doubtful: LB Compton (knee)
Questionable: G Lauvao (groin), C Long (concussion), OT Nsekhe (ankle), TE Reed (shoulder), S Blackmon (concussion/thumb)
Final injury report
Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers
—On the face of it, there couldn’t be more disparate levels of motivation for each team tonight. After the results of Sunday, the Panthers are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (Correction: The Panthers do have a .0004 chance of making the playoffs. Among the things that would have to happen is the Redskins getting another tie in their last two games). They are now the 15th team to miss the playoffs the year after losing the Super Bowl. After the
Cowboys’ win Buccaneers’ loss last night the Redskins can grab control of their own playoff destiny with a win tonight. If they win their last three games they will go to the postseason in two consecutive seasons for the first time since 1991-1992.
—I don’t want to get too deeply in psychoanalysis here but I do wonder what effect being eliminated from the playoffs will have on Cam Newton’s motivation tonight. After last year’s Super Bowl, he was clearly identified as being a bad loser. Even before his abbreviated press conference he chose not to go after a loose ball on the field, showing that when the odds are stacked against him he might just pack it in. Newton and the Panthers have won their division in each of the last three seasons. It will be interesting to see how much enthusiasm Newton has for the proceedings tonight, especially if the Redskins manage to get up by a couple of scores.
—On the team website Panthers coach Ron Rivera suggested that if Carolina is eliminated from playoff contention by kickoff, linebacker Luke Kuechly, probably their best defender, may be rested after missing the last three games with a concussion. Kuechly was cleared to play under the NFL’s concussion protocol but there is concern about his history with concussions. Such an injury forced him to miss three games last season as well. The Panthers defense will be considerably weaker if Kuechly, who was first-team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons, does not play.
—The Panthers are exceptions to the rule that a good pass rush will lead to a good pass defense. Going into Week 15 they led the league in sacks with 39 but they are 22nd in the league allowing 7.6 yards per pass attempt and 20th in opponent passer rating at 92.5. The passing game is the Redskins’ strength as they get 8.2 yards per pass attempt (3rd), have a passer rating of 100.5 (5th), and have allowed just 18 sacks (3rd).
—This game is there for the taking for the Redskins. They are favored everywhere you look and their motivation for winning is clear. I like the matchup discussed above, the Redskins’ passing offense against the Panthers’ Josh Norman-less pass D. Still, the key could be if Rob Kelley can get 75 yards or so rushing to slow down the Carolina pass rush. I think that he gets is, or something close, and the Redskins come away with an atypical comfortable win.
Redskins 31, Panthers 14
Tandler on Twitter
This was tweeted prior to the Bucs’ loss to the Cowboys last night.
The #Redskins could wrap up a playoff spot before Week 17 with wins over CAR and CHI, Bucs losses to DAL and NO, and GB loss to MIN.— Rich Tandler (@TandlerNBCS) December 19, 2016
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