Carolina (5-8) at Washington (7-5-1)
When: Monday, December 19th 2016
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, MD
Time: 8:30 ET | TV: ESPN
The Washington Redskins will try and stay in the playoff hunt when they host the Carolina Panthers Monday night in a game that sees CB Josh Norman going up against his old team. Washington is one-half game behind Tampa Bay in the Wild Card standings with the Bucs game on Sunday night pending. Washington coach Jay Gruden is not worried about Norman being overly pumped-up to face his former team after the Panthers basically let him go after pulling back the franchise tag. “He gets up for everybody. That’s the beauty of him.” The Redskins will also be looking for some revenge after they suffered their worst loss of the 2015 season with a 44-16 beating at Carolina. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has surpassed 4,000 yards for the second straight season and should have a healthier Jordan Reed to throw to after the tight end was limited to one catch last week. Washington has won three straight at home, averaging 33 points in the streak. LB Ryan Kerrigan has eight sacks and two forced fumbles in the past eight home games for the 26th-ranked defense.
Carolina is three games out of the playoffs with three to go and could actually be eliminated before this game kicks off on Monday. After throwing for a career-high 35 touchdowns last year, Cam Newton has been limited to just 15 this season with nine interceptions. He has had some success against the Redskins however, throwing seven TDs to zero picks in three games against them. TE Greg Olsen is 93 yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard season. The Panthers are coming off a strong 28-16 win over San Diego, but were scorched for 75 points in two road losses to Seattle and Oakland the previous two weeks. The secondary dearly misses Norman back there as they are ranked 30th in the league against the pass as opposed to 5th against the run. Star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, sidelined for the past three games, has practiced fully for the past three days but remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol and will be a game-time decision. The Panthers lead the NFL with 39 sacks. Carolina will finish the season in possible spoiler-mode when they play the top two teams in their division (Atlanta, @ Tampa Bay).
Cam Newton doesn’t want to get embarrassed in prime time again and I expect him to test Norman in the secondary. The Panthers defense will get after Cousins often and keep this a close game.
Pick: Panthers +7