Monday Night Football Preview
FedEx Field| ESPN | 8:30 p.m.
The 2016 season is coming to a close and the playoff picture is shaping up. Week 15’s edition of Monday Night Football includes a matchup between the Carolina Panthers (5-8) and the Washington Redskins (7-5-1). The Panthers are all but out of the playoff picture while the Redskins still have a fighting chance for a wild card spot.
The Panthers enter Week 15 in fourth place in the NFC South division and have gone from first to worst in only one season. Quarterback Cam Newton hasn’t seen nearly the same efficiency as he did in his MVP season in 2015. He is completing just 53.3 percent of his passes and has thrown only 15 touchdown passes to nine interceptions. The entire offensive struggles cannot solely be placed on him but he hasn’t helped their case.
Running back Jonathan Stewart is struggling as well, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. He has a favorable matchup as the Redskins are allowing 4.5 yards per carry and are allowing 112.5 rushing yards per game. They have also allowed a whopping 17 rushing touchdowns on the year.
Many expected wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to step right in where he left off in his rookie season but he hasn’t been able to produce in the same manner. He has caught only 51 passes for 765 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He will likely be shadowed by Redskins top cornerback Josh Norman, who will provide a stiff test.
Tight end Greg Olsen leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. He has seen his touchdown total dip, finding the end zone only three times so far this season. He still sees plenty of targets and that trend should continue as the Panthers try to keep up with the Redskins high powered offense.
The Panthers defense has been a major reason for their struggles as a team this season and they will face a tough test at FedEx Field taking on an offense that averages the third-most total yards per game in the NFL.
The Redskins are fighting for a playoff spot on Monday night. They have hung around enough to weed their way through to holding the final wild card position in the NFC. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is enjoying a stellar season, completing 67.5 percent of his passes for 4,045 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and only nine interceptions entering Monday night. The Panthers are allowing the most passing yards per game, which means Cousins is chomping at the bit.
Running back Robert Kelley has taken over the backfield in terms of carrying the load. He is having an efficient year, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has found the end zone five times. Chris Thompson has also seen a lot of snaps, mostly in passing situations, and has become a nice target for Cousins.
The Redskins have an immense amount of talent in their wide receivers. Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson are all enjoying strong seasons and have been a big reason why the Redskins offense is so powerful. Going up against a weak secondary, they should eat all day.
Tight end Jordan Reed isn’t having the type of year he hoped to have, battling injuries and inconsistent production. Nursing an injured shoulder, Reed has a most favorable matchup going against a defense that has struggled covering tight ends. It will be interesting to see how the Redskins use their tight end knowing Vernon Davis is there if Reed cannot go.
The Redskins defense has not been strong this season. They are allowing the ninth most passing yards per game, the 11th most rushing yards per game and the third highest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks entering Week 15. They have a good matchup against the weak Panthers offense, but this will likely turn to a shoot out.
Kevin is from Hilton Head, SC and is very passionate about football and fantasy football. He attended Charleston Southern University where I played baseball for four years. Currently Kevin covers the New York Giants for Sports Media 101 and contributes content to QBmecca.com.