Keys to victory
1 Beware of the QB » Cam Newton is having a tough second season, but the Redskins know quite well that he hurt them a year ago -- with both his arm and his legs. They admittedly underestimated Newton's passing ability, but it was his legs -- and breakdowns in responsibilities -- that led to big plays against them. The linebackers must be disciplined in defending this look. Newton tips off zone-read passes by not riding out his fakes too long, but his strong arm compensates if defenders aren't fooled.
2 Slow the rush » Carolina has 20 sacks, with three defensive linemen having at least 4? sacks apiece. However, 13 of those sacks have come in two games, and tackle Dwan Edwards, who has 41Ú2 sacks, might not play because of an ankle injury. The Redskins have done a good job limiting the pressure by moving the pocket, using lots of play-action and slowing the ends with zone reads and fake end arounds. It'll continue.
3 Win the ground war » Both teams have running threats, which makes their zone-read games work. The Panthers allow 4.1 yards per carry on the ground and have been hurt at times around the end, especially their left side where end Charles Johnson mostly gets after the quarterback. Carolina's offensive line hasn't generated much help in the run game, one reason DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both average 3.5 yards per carry or less -- after both managed 5.4 yards per run a year ago.
RT Tyler Polumbus
His play has improved over the last four weeks, particularly in protection.
DE Charles Johnson
He leads the Panthers with 51Ú2 sacks and excels when the interior collapses the pocket.
CB Josh Wilson
Last season the Redskins kept their cornerbacks to a side, but Wilson matched with Smith often.
WR Steve Smith
He remains dangerous with 35 catches but hasn't caught a touchdown pass.
RB Alfred Morris
There's no doubt the Redskins will stick with the ground game. He has a shot at a good game.
LB Luke Kuechly
The rookie first-round pick took over for excellent leader Jon Beason.
State of the teams
Carolina continues to play, and lose, close games. Five of the Panthers' six losses have been by a combined 18 points. They're a dangerous team in that one or two breaks could lead to an upset. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is not playing as well and consequently the offense has struggled.
The Redskins need to win or they'll have to deal with a three-game losing streak, 3-6 record, and many issues for two weeks before they play again. The coaches know that to stay headed in the right direction, they must beat a 1-6 team at home.
The Redskins have to win and will win. The Panthers' run game is not the same and that makes the offense less dangerous.
Redskins 24, Panthers 20