Week 7 Preview: Panthers need a victory against the Redskins

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Carolina’s Offensive Keys to the Game:

Carolina’s offense had a hard time getting into the end-zone against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6. However, the offense is light years ahead of what is was in 2010 under Jimmy Clausen. Cam Newton has looked like a legitimate threat at quarterback even though he threw three interceptions against Atlanta.

In the passing game, Newton has to make better reads and decisions. He has incredible ability to escape pressure, however many times Newton forces throws, particularly to Steve Smith, and it leads to turnovers. The passing game could have some trouble getting started as the Redskins come into Week 7 with the NFL’s 9th best passing defense allowing only 215 yards per game. It is imperative that the Panthers’ offensive line gives Newton enough time to go through his progression and make the plays when they present themselves. Overall, the Panthers own the NFL’s 5th best passing game averaging nearly 300 yards per game.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, the Panthers’ running game is starting to pick up steam. Carolina boasts the NFL’s 5th best running offense since Week 3. I would expect the Panthers to establish the run early and use the run offense to set up the passing game. The Panthers have home-run ability at running back and can take advantage in defensive breakdowns. Carolina comes into Week 7 averaging 120 rushing yards per game.

Carolina Defensive Keys to the Game:

Carolina has one big advantage in Sunday’s game. That advantage is the fact that Redskins quarterback, John Beck will be making his first start of the year. The former Miami Dolphin second round pick will be replacing former starter Rex Grossman under center this week. Carolina’s passing defense currently ranks a very respectable 11th in the NFL only giving up 219 yards per game. Beck could have a tough time establishing the passing game as I expect Sean McDermott to use blitz-heavy packages in hopes of forcing Beck to make quick decisions which could lead to turnovers.

Carolina’s run defense continues to be the biggest weakness of the football team. The Panthers’ rush defense comes into Week 7 ranked 31st overall by allowing 140 rushing yards a game. The good news for the Panthers is that the Redskins running game isn’t particularly impressive. Though the Redskins running game ranks an average 17th in the NFL, Tim Hightower is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry while backup Ryan Torain is averaging 5.4 yards per carry but only has 29 attempts on the year. The Panthers front line has an excellent opportunity Sunday to shut down the run and gain some confidence that could boost their performance for the rest of the year.

Redskins Offensive Keys of the Game:

The Redskins’ offense is very average ranking 17th in both the passing and rushing aspects of the game. Washington lacks playmakers at the key positions. Tight-end Fred Davis leads the team with 22 receptions for 343 yards and a touchdown. Davis will be quarterback, John Beck’s safety valve on Sunday, so it is critical that the Panthers keep a close guard on him. The Redskins will be missing their top playmaker, tight-end Chris Cooley as he will be out with a finger injury

The Redskins will have a tough time establishing the passing game seeing that John Beck will be making his first start. However, the Skins may have an easier time running the ball than they have in their first five games. The Panthers run defense has made every running back they’ve played against look like an All-Pro performer. I would expect the Redskins to rush the ball nearly 65% of the time on Sunday to help take pressure off of Beck and to set up the play action game.

Redskins Defensive Keys to the Game:

The Redskins’ defense has been very respectable this year ranking 9th in pass defense and 11th in rush defense. The team is able to use pass rushers like Brian Orakpo to put pressure on the quarterback. The Redskins are averaging over three sacks per game and it is critical that they put pressure on Cam Newton if they want to come out of Charlotte with a win.

Prediction: Panthers 27 – Redskins 18

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