|GAME: Washington Redskins (3-2) at Carolina Panthers (1-5)
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday Chris Gamble has had a great season for the Panthers. (AP Photo)
SITE: Bank of America Stadium
TIME: Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX
ANNOUNCERS: Chris Myers, Tim Ryan.
LAST WEEK: Panthers lost to the Falcons 31-17; Redskins lost to the Eagles 20-13.
RANKINGS AMONG NFL: Washington offense overall: 17th; 17th RUSHING; 17th PASSING, 23rd SCORING; Washington defense overall: 6th; 11th RUSHING; 9th PASSING; 3rd SCORING; Carolina offense overall: 5th; 13th RUSHING; 5th PASSING; 18th SCORING; Carolina defense overall: 16th; 31st RUSHING; 11th PASSING; t-28th SCORING.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 - Number of interceptions Chris Gamble needs (still) to tie the all-time franchise record held by Eric Davis. He's not had a pick in nearly two years.
PANTHERS OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN: The Panthers aren’t going to deviate from the passing game but they could look to run the ball a little more against a Redskins defense that is allowing opposing runners 4.6 yards per carry. Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are running well, so this is a game the Panthers could look to grind out a little more than usual. That said this is a passing team and they will look to pass first.
PANTHERS DEFENSIVE GAME PLAN: Defensively, expect the Panthers to throw all sorts of pressure on Redskins quarterback John Beck, who is making his first NFL start since 2007. Beck will replace Rex Grossman as the starter and normally the best way to get to a new quarterback is to blitz him frequently and not allow him to get comfortable in the pocket.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Panthers WR Steve Smith vs. Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall – These two have exchanged blows and words over the years and there’s no love lost in this matchup. Smith is having a great season and should be plenty motivate to play against his former nemesis Hall, who used to play for the Atlanta Falcons.
Panthers RT Byron Bell vs. Redskins DE Adam Carriker: Carriker has three sacks this season and faces an undrafted rookie in Bell, who struggled a bit last Sunday with Atlanta’s Ray Edwards. Bell was flagged for two penalties and also allowed a sack. Still, the Panthers felt like he did an admirable job under the circumstances.
FANTASY WATCH: I'm not sure I like a whole lot of starters in this game as this has all the earmarks of a 17-13 type of game. QB Cam Newton could be kept in check by a quiet Redskins defense, which means WR Steve Smith might be limited, too. RB DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could have moderate success, but I'm not so sure I like TE Greg Olsen against this defense.
For Washington, I'd stay away from most starters except for RB Tim Hightower, who has a chance for a good game against a defense that has struggled against the run. K Graham Gano has been unreliable, but could get plenty of chances Sunday. I think the Panthers won't have much trouble shutting down WR Santana Moss.
NOTABLE: Cam Newton's six rushing touchdowns are the second-most ever by a rookie behind only Vince Young, who had seven. The NFL record for most touchdowns by a quarterback is 12 held by New England's Steve Grogan in 1976.
REDSKINS KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Grind it out. The Bears and Falcons both found success on the ground against the Panthers and you can bet the Redskins will try to do the same with RBs Tim Hightower and Ryan Torain.
2. Stop Steve Smith. Smith leads the NFC in receiving yards, averaging more than 112 per game. He remains Cam Newton's favorite target. If they take him away the Panthers passing game will struggle.
3. Confuse Cam. Cam Newton expects that the Redskins will throw everything "including the kitchen sink" at him this Sunday. It may be their only hope of slowing him down.
PANTHERS KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Catch a break. Geez, eventually you think the Panthers will have something go their way. They had two rough interceptions last week on good plays by the Falcons, one of a tipped ball on a crossing route to Smith that should have been a touchdown.
2. Establish the ground game. It's time to get RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart a little more involved in the running game and in the short passing game.
3. Finish. Hey, we say this every week but it's true. The Panthers have blown fourth quarter leads in each of their last three games and lost.
PREDICTION: The Panthers offense should be too much for the Redskins and you have to think Sean McDermott will think up some ways to confuse QB John Beck, who makes his first start since 2007. Panthers 17, Redskins 13.
(Steve’s record to date: 4-2.)