The Carolina Panthers are an NFC worst 1-6 in large part due to the inconsistent and below average play of second year QB Cam Newton. Washington rookies Robert Griffin III and Albert Morris have led the NFL's third ranked offense to a mark of 3-5. The Panthers are in DC today. If they can't get the passing game going this week, second year head coach Ron Rivera may spend the rest of the season polishing up his resume.
The Redskins boast the worst pass defense in the NFL. Washington has allowed an average of 314 yards per game through the air. Last week Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger threw for three scores in a 27-12 win over the Skins. The Panthers are not at full strength as they look to take advantage of a leaky Skins secondary.
Carolina will be without number two WR Brandon LaFell. After catching three passes for 88 yards last week against Chicago, LaFell will miss the game after suffering a concussion. Former Raider Louis Murphy will start opposite Steve Smith. Depth is a major issue for the Panthers with only Smith and Tight End Greg Olsen available as dependable targets.
Newton enters the game with only the 28th best QB Rating in the league. His five passing TD's are one more than Jake Locker, and one fewer than Matt Cassel. After completing 60-percent of his passes as a rookie, this year the Auburn product, by way of Blinn College and the University of Florida, has managed only 57-percent (28th in the NFL) With Newton as a starter, Carolina is 1-10 in games decided by a touchdown or less including 0-5 this season. As for his counterpart Robert Griffin III – different story.
Following Newton as the Heisman Trophy Award winner, Griffin has excelled in his rookie campaign. He ranks seventh in the league in QB rating and has completed 67-percent of his passes, fifth best in the NFL. With a patch work group of WR's highlighted by the often injured Pierce Garcon (out this week with a foot injury) Griffin has effectively run the third ranked offense in the NFL. The Baylor University alum has been aided by fellow rookie Albert Morris.
Buried on depth chart before the season began, Morris, a sixth round draft pick from Florida Atlantic, ranks third in the league in rushing yards. The 12th RB taken in this year’s draft, Morris will face a Panther defense that has allowed less than 100 yards on the ground in three straight games.
If Newton can get the offense moving, Carolina has the ability to run the ball with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. If Newton struggles again, even a weak Redskin defense can devout their energy to stopping the run. This has been a formula that has limited Carolina to 18.3 points per game.
As for the Redskins, following the blueprint of other Panther opponents should do the trick. Wait for Newton to make a mistake. Chicago did it last week, and had to wait until deep in the fourth quarter, but their patience was rewarded. Even if Cam doesn't make the big mistake, if the game is close late, Griffin and Morris inspire a lot more confidence especially at home.