Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has had an up-and-down season, but he put together the best game of his career in Week 10. He torched the New Orleans Saints for 324 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He completed 80 percent of his passes and looked as good as he ever has.
He's been average for the rest of the season, but the four-touchdown effort improved his season total to 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, a respectable number at this stage of the season. Cousins, a fourth-year veteran, will face his toughest test of the season on Sunday.
New Orleans ranks 32nd in the league in total defense, and 30th in the league in passing defense, allowing 293.1 passing yards per game. Cousins' next opponent will be the undefeated Carolina Panthers.
The same Panthers that currently rank 11th in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and ninth in the league in total defense. The same Panthers that hold significant wins over teams like the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. You could argue that the Panthers haven't had the toughest schedule and you'd be correct, but they are a complete team and have many convincing wins this season.
Washington, on the other hand, has lost to most of the good teams it has played. It fell to the New England Patriots in Week 9, and dropped games to the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons earlier in the season. Its best win is probably the dominant game Cousins had over the Saints in Week 10.
But there's reason for optimism for Cousins and Washington. They are 4-5 on the season, which wouldn't be enough to have them on top in many divisions, but in the NFC East they are just a single game back of the New York Giants. More importantly, Washington will play the Giants in Week 12 after this game against Carolina, and going into that game with a two-game winning streak would be huge.
As far as the rest of the schedule, Washington has both games against the Dallas Cowboys and the rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles. Beating the Panthers isn't necessarily a requirement to make it to the top of the division and the postseason, but it would be a massive win for the team, and more confidence for Cousins couldn't hurt.
Washington didn't just dominate the Saints through the air -- it also ran the ball well. Alfred Morris had 92 yards on 15 carries, while rookie Matt Jones added another 56 yards on 11 touches. Chris Thompson broke a couple big runs and finished with 54 yards himself. Washington finished with more than 500 yards of offense.
Scoring on the Panthers will be much harder, but if there's one thing to be thankful for, it's that the Panthers haven't been super productive on offense this season. They are tied for 19th in the league in total yardage, though Cam Newton has been playing great football and that might be enough to get them to a sizable lead over Washington's No. 20-ranked defense.
How to watch
When: 1 p.m. ET
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa
Online: NFL Game Pass