The Redskins and Panthers came into the season with very different expectations. The Panthers were among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl, while Washington figured to be fighting for a playoff spot. As it stands now, though, the Redskins are the ones in the playoff mix with the Panthers on their last leg in regard to the postseason.
Monday night’s game comes with huge implications for the playoff picture, but it’s also Josh Norman’s revenge game. It’s the first time he’ll face his former team after the Panthers rescinded his franchise tag and let him walk. Since then, he’s gone on to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season with the Redskins, proving the Panthers made a massive mistake.
He’ll help the Redskins to a victory over the Panthers, but he won’t be the only factor. Here are three reasons Washington will roll to a win.
Josh Norman is a difference-maker
The Panthers made a huge mistake last offseason by letting Josh Norman walk. They’ve felt his absence all season, and it’ll be especially obvious against the Redskins when he gets revenge on his former team for the first time. Norman acknowledged that this game means a bit more, and called it personal. He’ll face his former teammates Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin and is certain to have a huge impact on the game.
Norman will play with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a playmaker without extra motivation, so the Panthers should be concerned about what he looks like when playing against his old team that essentially downplayed his impact on the game.
He’ll shut down Benjamin, forcing Newton to go elsewhere with the ball. Greg Olsen is a playmaker, but Ted Ginn’s production is limited to mostly deep passes and Devin Funchess has been wildly inconsistent all year. Norman will be a huge factor in this game, and he’ll make the Panthers realize what a mistake they made.
The Panthers’ secondary can’t match up with Washington’s WRs
The Panthers’ defensive backs have been terrible this season. After fielding one of the best secondaries in the league a year ago, Carolina has taken a massive step backward. The reason? That guy wearing No. 24 for the Redskins: Josh Norman's departure.
James Bradberry has been a disappointment, Charles Tillman retired and Roman Harper jumped to the Saints. Granted, the front office can’t control the way its players play, but it’s pretty safe to say it made a mistake this offseason. They’ll pay for it dearly in primetime against the Redskins.
Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed combine to give the Redskins one of the best receiving corps in the league. They don’t get a ton of attention, but it’ll become clear just how good they are on Monday when they torch Carolina for 350-plus yards through the air.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Kirk Cousins is the best QB in this game
At the beginning of the season, no one thought Cousins would come into this game as the better of the two quarterbacks. Cam Newton is the reigning MVP, he was getting Kelvin Benjamin back and the Panthers were defending NFC champions. However, he’s not better than Cousins, and it hasn’t even been close this season.
Cousins has thrown for 4,045 yards, 23 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He’s one of four quarterbacks with a passer rating above 100 and an average of 300 yards per game, joining Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady in that department. Newton, on the other hand, has just 2,774 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a passer rating of 78.9.
It’s clear to see which is the better quarterback, and it will be the difference in this game. Newton is mistake-prone, has looked uncomfortable and uninspired all year and hasn’t connected with Benjamin the way they were expected to. Cousins has a much better supporting cast, but as a passer, he’s been substantially better than Newton.