Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Football Team scouting and injury report for Week 16
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Ron Rivera spent nine years with the Carolina Panthers, which included a Super Bowl appearance in 2016. But his time there ended abruptly when he was fired last December.
Now, a little more than a year later, he’ll face his former team as Washington Football Team’s head coach, in what some have dubbed as the “Ron Rivera revenge game.”
Rivera says he doesn’t see it that way. Washington (6-8) has a one-game lead in the NFC East and Rivera wants to ensure that his team wins the division.
A win over the Panthers would help ensure that.
The Panthers (4-10), meanwhile, have struggled in coach Matt Rhule’s first season, but also seem to be building something with a young defense that pitched a shutout in Week 11 against the Lions and made things difficult for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week.
Here’s what you need to know:
WHEN THE PANTHERS HAVE THE BALL ...
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers have struggled in recent weeks to execute plays in all four quarters, and it has led to opposing teams jumping out to big leads against them.
The Panthers trailed the Packers 21-3 after one half, before finally finding a rhythm. Bridgewater takes most of the blame, but the blame should go all around. The Panthers haven’t run the ball well, and the play-calling from offensive coordinator Joe Brady has been questionable at times.
“Right now, having four wins, we have to continue to do a better job,” Brady said Thursday. “I have to continue to do a better job.”
Washington’s Football Team won’t make things easier. Washington allows the fourth-fewest yards per game in the NFL. Opponents average only 312.6 yards per game against its defense.
Washington defensive ends Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Chase Young, who is a front-runner for defensive rookie of the year, have wreaked havoc on quarterbacks. The three have combined for 18 sacks and five forced fumbles.
“He’s been dominant everywhere he’s been,” Brady said of Young. “He can play both the run and the pass. He’s dynamic. ... Already the disruption he can do as a rookie right now, he’s going to be a great football player for a while.”
The Panthers will likely be without left tackle Russell Okung (calf) and running back Christian McCaffrey (quad) again this week. The Panthers will have to take care of the football and keep Bridgewater upright.
In this game, the Panthers may have to rely on their running game, as teams are averaging only 200 yards passing against Washington.
WHEN WFT HAS THE BALL ...
The Panthers looked amazing in the second half against the Packers, who boast the league’s No. 2 offense. They sacked Rodgers five times and gave the offense a chance to tie the score at the end. It was one of their better performances this season.
However, the Panthers will likely be without their team’s defensive MVP, Brian Burns, who injured his knee while chasing down Rodgers for a sack late in the fourth quarter of last week’s game. The injury won’t require surgery, Rhule said Wednesday, but it was serious enough to put his status for this week’s game in doubt.
Burns has been critical to the success of the Panthers’ defense, which entered 2020 with low expectations. He has a team-high eight sacks and three forced fumbles, and offensive lines have to pay attention to where he is at all times. Not having his presence will hurt the Panthers.
“He’s a dynamic guy, and we use him in a lot of different roles,” Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow said. “So it affects what personnel groups we use, and it kind of limits what we can do.
“And, obviously, he makes big plays at big times, so we’ll miss that.”
Fortunately for the Panthers, Washington’s Football Team ranks 29th in the NFL in total yards per game (317.3). By comparison, the Panthers rank 20th in the league, averaging 356.6 yards per game.
Washington hasn’t had a consistent presence at quarterback. They’ve started three quarterbacks this year, mostly due to inconsistency and injury. Alex Smith is dealing with a calf injury. Kyle Allen is out for the season.
And Dwayne Haskins was recently disciplined after photos surfaced of him at a strip club after last Sunday’s game without a mask, according to the Washington Post.
Washington does have weapons.
Wide receiver Terry McLaurin leads Washington with 80 catches for 1,078 yards receiving. And running back Antonio Gibson has 11 touchdowns rushing and is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Their statues, however, are both up in the air for Sunday’s game.
But the Panthers’ performance against the Packers should give them confidence heading into this game.
WHEN THEY KICK ...
Panthers kicker Joey Slye is 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts since missing a critical 54-yard game-winning try in Week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings. He is 29-for-36 on field-goal attempts this season.
Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins hasn’t been great this year. He is 23-for-30 (76.7%) on field-goal attempts this season. His longest attempt was from 51 yards out.
Washington has a lot of the line here. Although a loss wouldn’t eliminate it from the playoffs, Washington would have to win its Week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles to win the division. So it’s likely Washington will be playing with a lot of desperation. It will also be an emotional game for Rivera.
The Panthers’ offense seems to be in a funk right now, and the defense will be missing its best player. Washington’s defense will make the Panthers pay for any mistakes. I think this game will be low scoring and close, as most of Carolina’s games have been. But Washington will ultimately come out on top.
Washington 20, Carolina 17
Carolina: RB Christian McCaffrey (quad) DOUBTFUL, LT Russell Okung (calf) DOUBTFUL, CB Troy Pride Jr. (hip) OUT, DE Brian Burns (knee) QUESTIONABLE, DE Austin Larkin (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE, DT Bravvion Roy (knee) QUESTIONABLE, LB Adarius Taylor (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
Washington: LB Thomas Davis (knee) OUT, WR Terry McLaurin (ankle) DOUBTFUL, RB Antonio Gibson (toe) QUESTIONABLE, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (ankle) QUESTIONABLE, QB Alex Smith (calf) QUESTTIONABLE
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