Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 18, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Carolina Panthers.
Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers
—If anyone thinks that the Redskins can’t win this game, may I direct your attention to the result of the game played on Monday night in Cincinnati. The Texans were double-digit underdogs and beat the undefeated Bengals 10-6. Yes, they got some help from the Bengals, particularly in the form of turnovers and dropped passes. The Redskins will probably need some help if they are gong to pull off the upset but it can be done.
—As noted here a few days ago, Kirk Cousins just has one interception in the last 13 quarters of play and that one pick, which bounced out of the hands of Pierre Garçon and into those of a Patriots defender, clearly was not his fault. His ball protection skills will be tested on Sunday as Carolina leads the league with 14 interceptions. Cornerback Josh Norman, a 2012 draft pick the Panthers developed into one of the better corners in the league, leads the team with four.
—In part because of the interceptions, the Carolina defense has the best opponent passer rating in the NFL with an impressive 69.1. That’s down in Peyton Manning territory (yes, it’s shocking to type that). Other teams complete just 57.2 percent of their passes against them and they average 6.0 yards per attempt. Add in 26 sacks, tied for sixth in the league, and Cousins will be challenged like he rarely has been before.
—Perhaps this would be a good game for the Redskins to get their running game going. The Panthers give up an average of 103 yards per game on the ground and 4.1 per carry. I suspect that to an extent the Panthers are willing to give up some yards on the ground, make teams grind out long drives, believing that the offense will make a mistake. And that happens pretty often; in addition to their 14 interceptions, the Panthers have recovered six fumbles.
—The Redskins’ biggest obstacle to winning on Sunday will be the man behind center for Carolina, Cam Newton. His passing numbers are not at all impressive with a completion percentage of 56.3 and a pedestrian passer rating of 84.8. But he is in the MVP conversation because can also run the ball (366 yards and six TD’s) and he has a knack for making a play when his team needs it. It’s hard to figure out how to defend a 6-6, 260-lb. quarterback when you very rarely go up against his combination of size and skills.
—Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30
—Days until: Redskins @ Panthers 4; Giants @ Redskins 11; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 19
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