The momentum is high for the Washington Football Team after defeating the defending Super Bowl Champions at FedExField. A 29-19 victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the perfect response coming out of the bye week.
However, Washington faces another team coming off an impressive win in the Carolina Panthers.
The return of quarterback Cam Newton helped led the Panthers to a 34-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals, putting them at .500 on the season. Here's a few more things you need to know about this week's opponent:
1. Panthers are prone to turnovers.
The Panthers enter the matchup with one major flaw: turnovers. They currently rank fourth in the league with 17 total giveaways. Twelve of those turnovers are attributed to interceptions from the now injured Sam Darnold (11) and P.J. Walker (1). The other five turnovers are a result of fumbles.
The Washington defense, which played inconsistently in the first half of the season, had a standout performance in Week 10. Against Brady, the Washington secondary forced two interceptions in the first quarter. In total Washington has 11 forced turnovers, six interceptions and five fumbles, on the season. If Washington can continue to win the turnover battle, they'll continue to give themselves a chance to win ball games.
2. Carolina's Defensive Strength.
It's a new week, same story for Washington, which faces yet again another tough defense. Without a doubt the Carolina unit is one of the stingiest in the league. They've been successful getting after the quarterback, recording a total 27 sacks on the season. Linebacker Haason Reddick has been particularly successful, as he ranks fourth in the league with 9.5 sacks on the season.
The Panthers also enter this game with the league's top pass defense, allowing an average of 173.7 yards per game. In total, the Panthers are allowing opponents 280.7 yards per game, which is second in the league. To make the case even stronger for the strength of this defense, they are holding teams to an average 19.3 points per game (sixth in the league). Carolina is slightly less successful defending the run game, which Washington will need to capitalize on. Washington put up 94 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against the Bucs, one of the best run defenses in the league. Washington will want to carry this momentum into Sunday's meeting with Carolina.
3. Offensive Struggles.
The Panthers' offense hasn't produced a significant amount of offensive numbers but are still finding ways to score. Their 34 points against Arizona was a season-high for Carolina. However, 12 of those points are attributed to Newton's return. The Carolina offense has struggled in the passing game averaging 204.9 yards per game. They are just behind Washington in points per game with 20.5. The Panthers have seen the most production in their run game which ranks slightly higher than Washington with an average 116.0 yards per game.
Much of this success is attributed to the running back duo of Chuba Hubbard and Christian McCaffrey. Hubbard stepped in the absence of McCaffrey who was out for six weeks due to a hamstring injury. With both running backs and Newton in the lineup, Washington's defensive line will want to prepare for the Carolina run game. Washington currently ranks six in the league defending the ground game, allowing opponents 97.1 yards per game.
4. A whole lot of history.
Head Coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Newton spent eight seasons in Carolina from 2011-2019. During this time, the Panthers made four playoff appearances. In 2015, Carolina won the NFC Championship and made an appearance in Super Bowl 50. In the same year, Newton earned MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors for his 3,837 yards with 35 touchdowns. Multiple players will also be up against their former team including quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen in addition to most of Washington's coaching staff.
5. X-Factor: The Return of Cam Newton.
"I'm back!" Newton shouted after scoring his first touchdown in his return with the Panthers. The second-time Carolina quarterback didn't see much playing time but did record both a passing and rushing touchdown against the Cardinals. With Darnold out, Newton has a serious chance at securing Carolina's Q1 position over Walker. Regardless, Newton is a playmaker and will be a factor Washington needs to account for. Whether it's a third and goal or fourth and inches, Washington will need to prepare for Newton.