Carolina Panthers (5-8 SU, 4-8-1 ATS) vs. Washington Redskins (7-5-1 SU, 9-4 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Monday, December 19, 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CAR +4.5/WAS -4.5
Over/Under Total: 51
The Carolina Panthers come to FedEx Field to take on the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. The Redskins may have lost touch with the Cowboys in the NFC East, but at 7-5-1, they are still in there with a very realistic chance at the postseason. They showed some of that urgency on Sunday, overcoming a 4th quarter deficit with a TD with under two minutes left to avoid a loss to the Eagles. The Panthers’ season hasn’t gone according to their expectations, with the defending conference champions at 5-8. With 4 wins in their last 6 games, including a Sunday 28-16 win over the Chargers, they’ve shown they still have some life heading into the final stretch of the season.
The Redskins really need this one. It’s been a wild season for the ‘Skins. Following a demoralizing 0-2 start, they would go on to lose just once in their next eight games. But two straight losses heading into the Eagles game threatened their season. So when Chris Thompson ran it in from 25 yards out for a TD, with a big defensive play stopping the Eagles’ last-ditch drive, it came as welcome news for the Redskins.
With 234 yards on Sunday, Kirk Cousins has again eclipsed 4000 yards passing. In a big highlight from Sunday, he hit DeSean Jackson on an 80-yard catch. Jackson has put up some big performances this season. But they have a deep and versatile aerial attack, with TE Jordan Reed, still-excellent Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, and others. The performance of rookie back Robert Kelley has also given the Redskins a dash of an effective ground-game. But when not, there is enough diversity even within the one-dimensional aerial attack to make this one of the more dangerous offenses in the conference.
During the Redskins’ 2-game slide and at other points this season, as well, the defense was more or less “there.” On Sunday, with the Eagles driving and deep in Washington territory and looking destined to score, Ryan Kerrigan sacked and stripped the ball from Carson Wentz, securing a most-needed victory. They’re not a great group, but in 11 of 13 games this season, they’ve allowed between 20-31 points. So they are consistent and usually not embarrassed.
Again, the Panthers aren’t giving up. Being at 5-8 and playing the last handful of games with their postseason hopes dashed has to be a hard pill to swallow for a team that was on the short list of Super Bowl favorites heading into the season. But there is still a lot of professional pride on that sideline and it’s showing now. As of late, only a 40-7 loss to Seattle has broken a string of respectable showings. Sure, they’re 5-8, but they started 1-5 and any team taking them lightly from here on out will be doing so at their own peril.
The Carolina offense bears a lot of the blame for how things soured so graphically for the Panthers this season. Cam Newton’s performance this season was one of the worst on record for any defending MVP. Even with the Chargers handing them over the ball time and again, the Panthers couldn’t take full advantage, with their 28 points the lowest that could have possibly been scored amidst those conditions. Greg Olsen was effective and Jonathan Stewart ran in a score. But even with Kelvin Benjamin back in the fold, injuries and inconsistent play have made this a vastly-depreciated group.
Injuries have also cost the Carolina defense this season, in addition to departures. Josh Norman’s absence has really been felt in the secondary, as he will be on the opposite sideline in this game in an interesting little side-storyline. And we’ll see if Luke Kuechly gets back into action this week. Still, they looked good on Sunday, with five sacks and five turnovers among this group’s highlights. Granted, the San Diego offensive line has issues, but the Carolina front had them looking even worse than normal. They have 15 interceptions on the season and can make plays despite being far from stout. But before it seems like we’re heaping praise on this group, they also bear the burden of a year that was far off from expectations. With that said, they have shown some life over recent weeks.
A lot of lost bets late in the season are made in the spirit of what team is in a more-urgent position. It implies that teams can simply will things to happen, which doesn’t always work against teams that are still trying really hard to play well and win. The Redskins are in the midst of a playoff scramble, while the Panthers have little to play for other than pride. At the same time, this has the earmarks of a game where both teams will be clawing in a close affair. I’m taking the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Carolina Panthers plus 4.5 points.
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