Washington has a chance to get one game closer to clinching the NFC East when it hosts Carolina on Sunday afternoon. If it is able to win its final two games of the regular season, it will be in the playoffs. Or if the Giants lose to the Ravens and Washington wins, they are in. The Panthers could be looking at a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Panthers on losing skid
Carolina got off to a 3-2 start this season, but it has been all downhill since then. The Panthers have lost eight of their last nine games, including a loss at Green Bay last Saturday. They are currently without star running back Christian McCaffrey, who is sidelined with a quad injury. First-year head coach Matt Rhule is dealing with numerous injuries to his roster, including McCaffrey, who has only played in three games this season. The offense ranks in the bottom half of the league, averaging 356.6 yards per game. They will be facing a stout Washington defense that comes in at No. 4 in the NFL, allowing just 312.6 yards per contest.
Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has completed 69.8 percent of his passes and has a 14-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Bridgewater is also the team’s second-leading rusher, tallying 265 yards on 44 carries. Veteran running back Mike Davis is shouldering the load with McCaffrey sidelined, averaging 4.1 yards per attempt. Wide receiver DJ Moore has caught 56 passes for a team-leading 1,055 yards and four touchdowns. Robby Anderson has added 85 receptions for 1,017 yards and two scores. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel has 65 grabs for 627 yards and Davis has added 59 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns out of the backfield.
Washington set for huge game
Washington has been playing great football during the second half of the season. It had a four-game winning streak snapped in a narrow loss to Seattle last week, but the Seahawks were 5.5-point favorites. The Football Team currently leads the NFC East with a 6-8 record, holding a one-game advantage over Dallas and New York. They control their own destiny with this game and a regular-season finale at Philadelphia. Washington’s offense has been near the bottom of the league, averaging just 317.3 yards per game. It should be able to have some success against a Carolina defense that is allowing 25.4 points per contest.The biggest question heading into this game is the starting quarterback. Veteran Alex Smith missed last week’s game and is questionable for this one. He has been practicing, but head coach Ron Rivera said the team likely won’t know who the starter is until Sunday. Dwayne Haskins would be the starter if Smith can’t go. Smith has completed 66.4 percent of his passes, while Haskins has completed 62.9 percent of his. Running back Antonio Gibson leads the rushing attack with 141 carries for 649 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin has been the top target in the passing game, catching 80 passes for 1,078 yards and three touchdowns. McLaurin might not play this week due to an ankle injury and Gibson (toe) is still questionable.