A pair of NFC teams trying to play catch-up in their own division will meet in Week 6 when the Carolina Panthers visit the Washington Redskins. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 14 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on Fox.
According to the Week 6 odds, this game is a straight-up PK. The over/under for the game is set at 45.5 points.
In one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, the Panthers have quietly gotten off to a promising 3-1 start. Carolina has been a little overshadowed by the Saints while also avoiding the negative attention of the 1-4 Falcons. However, after edging out the Giants on a last-second field goal last week, the Panthers should feel good about where they sit at this point in the season.
However, Carolina’s schedule for the next few weeks is no picnic. With their bye already behind them, the Panthers hit the road for four of the next six weeks, including games against the Eagles and Steelers. That kind of schedule makes this week’s toss-up in Washington an important game for the Panthers as they look to keep pace with New Orleans atop the NFC South.
The Redskins, meanwhile, find themselves in a division that’s there for the taking. Philadelphia has taken a slight lead at the top of the NFC East, but the Redskins can claim the top spot for themselves with a win over Carolina on Sunday.
Of course, doing so means bouncing back from a rough night in New Orleans on Monday. The Redskins lost to the Saints 43-19, as they were completely dominated on both sides of the ball. On the bright side, Washington will play three of their next four games at home, and on the surface, all four games are very winnable. If the Redskins can find some consistency, they have a golden opportunity to seize control of the NFC East.
When a game is a PK, it usually means the road team is a little better. I find that to be the case with this matchup. While the Panthers have some flaws, Washington’s week-to-week inconsistency makes me wary to believe in them against a quality team. With no spread to cover, I’ll lean toward the Panthers to find a way to win on the road.
The best thing the Panthers have going for them this season is their ability to run the ball. Carolina leads the NFL with 154 rushing yards per game. Obviously, they have the benefit of having Cam Newton contribute significantly to their rushing total every week, which at times can be a problem. However, they also have Christian McCaffrey, who is a big play waiting to happen, especially with the way he’s used in the passing game.
Speaking of the passing game, the Panthers still leave a lot to be desired in that department. Newton usually doesn’t take shots downfield unless he needs to, preferring to keep things short to McCaffrey. Of course, that kind of offense can be effective at times, especially with tight end Greg Olsen expected to return this week.
To be fair, I expect the Washington defense to offer a fair amount of resistance against the Carolina offense. Outside of last week’s disaster, the Redskins have played well on that side of the ball this year. But with Carolina’s ability to run the ball and stay balanced, the Panthers should be able to put a few successful drives together and score some points.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins figure to have some problems. Washington’s running game has been a little off and on all season, and when they can’t establish a ground attack, Alex Smith becomes limited as a passer. The Redskins are also a little banged up at wide receiver, so Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson may not be available. Without those two, they don’t even have the threat of a deep passing game, making Washington reliant on running back Chris Thompson and tight end Jordan Reed as their top targets in the passing game.
Keep in mind that Carolina’s defense is typically strong against the run. The Panthers will also get linebacker Thomas Davis back from suspension this week, which should make them even more capable of slowing down Adrian Peterson and the Washington running game. Peterson is already battling injuries, so he could have a tough time getting consistent yards against the Carolina defense. If Peterson doesn’t have a good game, there’s a good chance the Redskins will remain quiet on offense all afternoon since their passing game is a little unreliable.
While the Redskins are capable of winning this game, they’ve been a little tough to predict from week to week this season. On the other hand, I know the Panthers will be able to run the ball and play solid defense. Doing those two things always gives you a chance to win games away from home, so I’ll take my chances with the Panthers beating Washington straight up.