Panthers vs. Redskins 2012 preview: Carolina head to Washington hoping to salvage season

Joe Sargent

A disastrous 1-6 start, a fired GM, and now facing one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. The Carolina Panthers' second win won't come easily, while the Washington Redskins put pressure on themselves, calling this a 'must-win.'

An excellent offense, a mediocre defense, and a stellar rookie QB, already a phenom in his first year -- heard this story before? In many ways Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins are mirroring the 2011 Carolina Panthers, which had Cam Newton enthuse the organization and create ski-high expectations entering his sophomore season. The luster is gone, and now the 1-6 Carolina Panthers are looking to salvage respectability as they visit FedEx field and the 3-5 Redskins.

Washington has far loftier goals than respectability, as even a 3-5 record is keeping the team in the hunt in the NFC East; where a playoff berth would justify the trade cost for RGIII, and prove that the Mike Shanahan era has focus and direction.

Meet the Panthers

Not even two weeks removed from firing former general manager Marty Hurney, the Carolina Panthers are trying to find their way without front-office leadership. Electing to not even name an interim GM, they're the model of instability.

Head coach Ron Rivera has said publicly that the buck stops with him when it comes to roster moves, and yet prior to the deadline the Panthers elected not to trade running back DeAngelo Williams, or wide receiver Steve Smith -- both of whom had suitors on the market.

With a new offensive scheme preaching power running over gimmicks, the Panthers are hoping this will settle Cam Newton and allow him to finally get into a rhythm. His second season in the NFL has not lived up to expectations, as the second-year QB has displayed accuracy issues and an inability to turn drives into points in the red zone.

Meet the Redskins

While Robert Griffin III soaks up the jubilation and glory, it's fellow rookie RB Alfred Morris who is having the better season at his position. The sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic is on pace for a staggering rookie season of 1,434 rushing yards, and 10 touchdowns.

Mike Shanahan has shown the knack, yet again, to spin gold with his running backs -- taking solid talent and churning out elite NFL runners. When paired with RGIII, it leads to a dangerous offensive situation where the fear of Robert Griffin III's legs keep defenses off balance, where a combination of zone blocking and effective audibles are leaving defenses in disarray.

As it stands, the Redskins boast the NFL's sixth-ranked offense, and second-rated rushing attack. Shanahan uses this to wear defenses down, and then has his rookie signal caller give the knockout blow.

Local Takes: Panthers

Jaxon over at Cat Scratch Reader thinks this is where the Panthers can start to turn the season around:

This one is the key because we have to stop this losing streak asap and its our 2nd toughest road game remaining. The good news is the Redskin secondary is terrible and the Panther defense is playing much better. If they can keep RG3 in the pocket they have a chance of holding the score down. A very winnable game though the Redskins are favored by 3. I'm calling for the upset!

Local takes: Redskins

Over at Hogs Haven, Kevin Ewoldt notes that, while DeAngelo Hall wasn't suspended, this isn't his first rodeo:

This is not DHall's first meltdown. In a 2007 game with the Falcons, he had a blowup with Panthers' WR Steve Smith that resulted in 3 penalties for 67 yards. DHall then get in a verbal altercation with his assistant secondary coach and the head coach. The Falcons fined him heavily and to which Hall said, "I made a mistake...I promise it won't happen again, no matter what." Oops.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Cat Scratch Reader and Hogs Haven, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@catscratchreadr

@hogshaven

Prediction

From the week nine picks:

Once upon a time, this looked like a battle of two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. And then Cam Newton screwed it all up with his play this year (five touchdowns to eight interceptions). On the other side, RGIII is playing like a 10-year vet. Rookie quarterbacks struggle with accuracy and turnovers, but not RGIII (66.8 completion percentage and three interceptions). The edge goes to the Redskins.

The pick: 27-24, Redskins

Odds

The Redskins are favored by 3.5 points according to OddsShark.

Next Week

The Carolina Panthers get a harder test at home where they meet the Denver Broncos. The Washington Redskins will get a considerably tougher opponent too, as the Philadelphia Eagles come to town.

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