The Carolina Panthers are able to take one away from the Redskins in the Nation’s Capitol. I saw a fun fact on Sunday NFL Countdown (ESPN) that says the winner of the game in DC right before election day is generally able to predict who will win the election. Whenever the Redskins win, the incumbent wins the election. If the road team is victorious, the person who is running against the president will win. Perhaps this is good news for Mitt Romney. Anyways, I did not see this game, but I did track it at the bottom of the screen during the Miami/Indianapolis game. The ‘Skins did fail on a fourth and goal, which did cost them. The Panthers seemed like they were in control for a majority of the game. It seemed like each team went into the game wanting to run the ball (the Redskins enter their games with that mentality anyways). Cam Newton not turning the ball over in this game was key for the Panthers. Previously Newton was only 1-8 in his career in games decided by one score. It must feel good for Carolina to finally be on the winning side of a close game.
It didn’t seem like this game was all that close (from just following it on the bottom of the screen). I do feel the need to point out that the Redskins are in real trouble now, slipping to 3-6. Nobody ever said that RGIII would be able to bring his team to the playoffs. While he is playing well, the Redskins really need to fix some things on their defense. Last week there were a lot of dropped passes from their wide receivers. What I mean to say is that there are too many things wrong with the Redskins for just one man to fix. I do like where the Redskins are going, but this game’s outcome tells me one thing- the Panthers are not as bad as their record indicates. This was a very good win for Cam and his Panthers.
This game (along with the Tampa Bay/Oakland game) was the hardest for me to pick. This one could literally come right down to a coin toss. Upon a quick breakdown, one could easily say that the Redskins should win this game. They have been playing much better than Carolina this season and they have the #6 ranked offense vs. the Panther’s #15 ranked defense. Robert Griffin III has been playing lights out this season, and in some ways trumping what Cam Newton did last year. The major story-line that everybody will look at in this game is Cam Newton vs. RGIII. However, I am going to tell you why it is something else that is more important than the QB battle because it is what will help Carolina win this game in Washington.
With all of the offense that will be taking the field on Sunday, I am going to focus on the defense since that is what this game is going to come down to. Let’s face it, the only thing the Redskins defense has done this year is play just well enough to make Robert Griffin III look like Hulk Hogan with all of his incredible comebacks. At the same time, what was once a weak point on the Carolina side of the ball now looks like it is their strength this year if you factor in Cam Newton’s struggles. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it is because of one guy in the middle: Luke Kuechly- who I think should win defensive rookie of the year. What a find was this man out of Boston College. He tackles better than most players in this league already, and he fills the hole better than any rookie linebacker I have ever seen. He will have his eyes on Alfred Morris the whole game. With Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, he likes to use pitches to help Morris gain the outside edge. That has worked to perfection this season, except in this game he has to try to gain the edge against this man, who is on pace for 142 tackles this season. He is second (as far as rookies go) in tackles behind Indianapolis’ Jerrell Freeman. I just don’t think the ‘Skins will be able to use their speed to get outside quite like they have to this point in the season.
I would also like to note how well Carolina played against the Bears. This was a game that the Panthers should have won. They put up over 400 yards on one of the league’s best defenses. This is something that they were able to do for a lot of the season last year. Perhaps Steve Smith can build a little momentum off of his huge game against the Bears in this game against the last ranked pass defense in the league. If Cam Newton has a bounce-back game in him, this will be the week that it happens.
Carolina 33, Washington 30