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Blognostications

2016 Week 15 - Panthers @ Redskins

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Blognosticator - Knightingale

ONE OF THESE TEAMS…

I’ve got to pick a winner. One of these teams.

Redskins or Panthers? Panthers or Redskins?

I’ll come to the Panthers in a moment, but first let me set the stage for my thoughts and feelings.

This year’s Redskins are the most damnably infuriating team I can remember us fielding in a long time.

Looking back over recent times we’ve always kind of known what we’ve got with the Redskins. We, as fans, also knew why.

• 2015 we knew we were a team on the turn. We had low expectations because we knew Gruden and Scotty were the new dynamic duo in town and this was their first year together.

• 2014 we were a team at rock bottom. Again, there was little expectation because we had just watched this team quit on the ShanClan in 2013.

• Talking of 2013, we had hope that early year. All in! Hope that RGIII was the second coming and that we were going to be contenders for many a year. Didn’t take long to figure out what an illusion that was.

• 2012 was an amazing run but I think looking back we all knew that it was a fluke year. A confluence of circumstance that made us look better than we actually were.

I could go on, but the point is that this year’s team is different. Feels different. To me anyway.

We all watched them turn a corner last year and make the playoffs. Not smoke and mirrors, but a real turnaround. This year feels like they’re building on that. Brick by brick building a solid foundation that will see them be relevant for the next decade.

But with that feeling comes the infuriation of the inconsistency, and the annoying nagging realisation that this team isn’t quite playing to its full potential just yet. On either side of the ball.

Which brings us back to the Panthers.

Talk about inconsistency. 2012 they went 7-9. Then 2013 they went 12-4. Then in 2014 they went 7-8-1. Last year, as we all know, they went 15-1 and to the Superbowl.

This year they are 5-8.

If the pattern holds true, then this is a slump year for them. Redskins should win handily right?

Not so fast chum!

For a start this is a team that has turned a bit of a corner itself lately. That Win/Loss record was mostly due to a horrendous 1-5 start to the season. Back then they might have been the defending NFC Champs, but they weren’t the same team. They had lost players in the off season, most notably one Josh Norman who came to Washington. They had to break in a couple of rookie Cornerbacks which made them vulnerable and for whatever reason their Offensive Line struggled protecting Cam Newton.

But here’s the rub. Since then they’ve gone 4-3.

OK yes one of those losses was to a blowout by the Seahawks 40-7 (who then in turn lost 38-10 to the Packers… go figure!)

The teams they lost to? The Chiefs by 3 and the Raiders by 3. Both are being considered for strong Superbowl runs from the AFC. No shame losing to them.

The teams they beat? The Eagles (by a larger margin than we did!), a feisty Bills team, and the always excellent New England Patriots.

In that same time span we’ve gone 3-3-1. And our roll call of victories isn’t as impressive. Wins over a broken Vikings, an awful Eagles and a slumping Packers.

Now this may sound all doom and gloom. I’m just setting up realistic expectations of the Panthers. But never fear! Here’s where I stoke the fires of BGO optimism.

As I said at the top of the article, this Redskins team is infuriatingly inconsistent, and while there are times when it means that we all get mad because we either lose games we should have won, or leave things sphincter clenchingly close…

We’re also a team that I don’t think anyone out there really wants to play.

Firstly we can rack up yards and points on ANYBODY. And I do mean ANYBODY. Moving the ball isn’t an issue for this team, even if scoring sometimes is. And even though the latter is annoying sometimes, the fact that we have so many weapons and we move the ball with such ease generally gives us as fans hope that at some point we’ll just see a complete game from them, where they score A LOT of points.

Like we saw against the Packers.

We may not do it often but we’re capable of it, and that’s exciting. And must scare the bejesus out of our opponents.

This team also always comes to play. We rarely look flat and we never ever give up. There’s a real HTTR spirit about this team and honestly whether we win or lose this year, whether we make the playoffs or not, this year’s team is already one of my favourites from recent memory. A team where in any given game we have a chance. I’m proud of this team, and to be a fan of this team. There have been no games this year where I’ve truly expected a loss.

And this one is no different.

We can beat this Panthers team. This is not last year’s Panthers and we’re not last year’s Redskins.

We’re better. More composed and more experienced than a year ago.

Last year they sacked Cousins 5 times. This year our O-Line is much better. A happy confluence of that and Cousins being more composed means that our QB is rarely sacked.

Taking about Cousins and his composure… Cousins threw 1 Interception and fumbled the ball for 2 more turnovers. That’s not happening this year. No Siree!

Matt Jones and Jordan Reed also fumbled last year. Think that’s happening again? Jordan is as sure a pair of hands as we’ve got, and Jones isn’t on the field.

Cam also threw for 5 TD’s against us… This year we have a tandem of CB’s who (when playing well – Looking at you Breeland!) are more than capable of stemming that tide. And one of them came from the Panthers with all his knowledge of how Cam and his receivers play the game.

Last year we scored 16 points. That’s all. This year? We’re averaging over 25 ppg. And their Defense that was so vaunted last year? In fact guess what’s it’s average points allowed per game is? Almost 26 ppg. (Advantage Washington!)

But before I predict a Washington landslide victory, there’s a problem.

Yes we all know what it is. The elephant in the room.

Our Defense.

I could repeat that paragraph above talking about the teams the other way around. The Skins on average allow just over 24 ppg, while the Panthers are on average scoring just under 24 ppg.

And so this is what this game boils down to.

Cam Newton versus the Red Sea.

We’ve had trouble against impact players all year. Every game we walk away shaking our heads. Bloody Matt Stafford. Sodding A J Green. The most worrying of all for this game comes in the form of our blowout win over the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers was their leading rusher with 3 carries for 33 yards. What’s more, while we pressured him all day we only managed to get the slipper SoB for 2 sacks. How does that bode for our Defense versus Cam Newton? A sign of things to come?

Their best RB is Jonathan Stewart who has only 577 yards on the season. Second on their team? Cam Newton with 317 yards. (To put this in perspective Cousins has 55 yards). Cam is a huge part of their running game, he can take off and extend plays at any given notice. This is an area where the Redskins are really bad this year, we lack the speed to contain Cam when he breaks from the pocket. Expect to see a lot of Kerrigan or Smith chasing Cam as he breaks loose around the outside.

So in summary where do I see this game going this week?

It’ll be close. Very close. A nail biter (as if we really need another one of those!)

We’ll move the ball on them and score. Cam will be a one man show and exploit our Defense and it’s holes. Both teams will hit about their averages.

But one of these teams is fighting for its playoff life here. One of these teams has shown grit and determination all season. One of these teams has been a unit. No back stabbing or fighting, or moaning or complaining. One of these teams has owned up to its faults and it trying to address them. One of these teams knows its Defense has to do better. One of these teams knows its Offence needs to improve in the redzone. One of these teams is trying to prove to the world that it’s a team that is on the cusp of something big.

And for one of these teams it will carry them to a close hard fought victory.

Redskins 28
Panthers 24
HTTR
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