Six Points: Redskins vs. Panthers

Kirk Cousins (left) is fresh off the best game of his NFL career, and now draws Cam Newton (right) and the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Can Cousins lead the upset, or will Newton dance his way to 10-0?

Greg M. Cooper & Jim Brown/USA T

The Washington Redskins (4-5) are set for yet another tough matchup, as they’ll head on the road to face the undefeated Carolina Panthers (9-0). Fortunately for the Redskins, they have plenty to feel good about with quarterback Kirk Cousins completing 80 percent of his passes in Week 10’s victory, for 324 yards and four touchdowns.

Cousins wasn’t the only one rolling in Week 10, as Cam Newton had yet another stellar day, leading the Panthers to their ninth straight victory in 2015. Newton completed 80.8 percent of his passes in a victory over the Tennessee Titans, while scoring two total touchdowns as well.

The quarterback play will be just one of the many highlights in what should be a great Week 11 matchup.

Here are three keys to the game for both the Redskins and the Panthers.

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1. Attack Panthers cornerback Bene Benwikere

The Panthers have created a strong secondary, led by elite cornerback Josh Norman, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their weaknesses. Benwikere plays inside in the slot at cornerback for the Panthers, and he has struggled in pass coverage in almost every game. He has allowed just under 70 percent of targeted passes to be completed for 404 yards and three touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks have a 101.1 passer rating when targeting Benwikere, and Cousins should have no trouble increasing that number in Week 11. Redskins rookie slot wide receiver Jamison Crowder is starting to come into his own. In Week 10, he finished with four receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown.

2. Roll with the same defensive changes from Week 10

In Week 10, an injury to starting inside linebacker Keenan Robinson forced reserve linebacker Will Compton into a starting role. Robinson had struggled all year — his 15 missed tackles are the second-most of any inside linebacker. In his place, Compton helped the Redskins shut down the run game and keep Drew Brees limited to 14 points. That wasn’t the only defensive change the Redskins made. Deangelo Hall (toe) returned to action, but the Redskins decided to use him primarily at free safety instead of cornerback. The decision was met with immediate success. Although Robinson has return to practice this week, the Redskins would be wise to utilize both defensive changes against in Week 11.

3. Get Matt Jones involved in the passing game

Jones might be a rookie, but he proved in Week 10 that he has a lot to offer in the passing game if the Redskins give him a chance. Jones made several defenders miss when he took a 78-yard screen pass for a touchdown, but that wasn’t all the damage he did in the passing game. He also added two more receptions and he finished the day with 131 yards receiving on three catches. Jones only has 210 yards receiving on the season, but it’s time the Redskins the Redskins got him more involved in the passing game.

1. Time for the wide receivers to step up

Whether it’s Ted Ginn Jr., Corey Brown, Devin Funchess, Jerricho Cotchery or whoever else, the Panthers are going to need to utilize their wide receivers in this game. The Redskins have been very good against opposing tight ends in 2015, allowing just one touchdown, while also being solid against running backs. Their weakness? Slowing down wide receivers. To this point in 2015, Washington has allowed 103 receptions for 1,473 yards and 13 touchdowns to opponents’ wide outs. The player to most likely have a big day should be Ginn, as his speed could cause issues for the Redskins.

2. Test Washington’s ability to stop Cam Newton from running

So far this year, opposing quarterbacks have rushed just 15 times against the Redskins, the second-fewest attempts in the league. While it has resulted in 76 yards and a touchdown, this could be a great opportunity for Newton to run wild. We’ve seen Newton rush for 366 yards and six touchdowns so far this season, so his ability to run over teams is obvious. Keep your eyes peeled to see if he tests Washington early in Week 11.

3. Keep the pressure up

The Panthers are tied at No. 6 for the most sacks in the NFL with 26 this year. It’s obvious that their strong defense has been a huge part of their incredible 9-0 start, but we’ve surprisingly seen Cousins only get sacked 12 times this season. If Carolina can tally a few sacks on Washington’s signal caller, it’s going to go a long way toward extending their undefeated season to 10-0, but it won’t be an easy task.

*All stats on individual pass coverage, missed tackles and pressures are from Pro Football Focus.