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Washington Vs. Panthers Preview: Playoffs On The Line

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Even though the Washington Football Team suffered a 20-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it still has a chance at winning the NFC East for the first time since 2015 if it bounces back against the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants lose to the Baltimore Ravens. Here's everything you need to know about the Week 16 matchup.

GAMEDAY INFORMATION:

Date: Dec. 27

Time 4:05 p.m.

Location: FedExField (Landover, Maryland)

WATCH: CBS

  • Ian Eagle (play-by-play)
  • Charles Davis (analyst)
  • Evan Washburn (reporter)

LISTEN: The Team 980, ESPN 630 and WMAL 105.9

  • Julie Donaldson (host)
  • Bram Weinstein (play-by-play)
  • DeAngelo Hall (analyst)

A stream of the radio broadcast will also be available at WashingtonFootball.com and on select Washington Football Team social media platforms.

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Washington leads the all-time series, 9-6.
  • Although it leads the all-time series, Carolina has outscored Washington, 334-314.
  • Washington's first win over Carolina came on Dec. 24, 1995. The team went on to win six straight games by a combined 18 points.
  • Washington has won both of its most recent matchups with Carolina. In 2019, the team held on to beat Carolina on the road, 29-21.

COACHING STAFF

Washington:

  • Head coach Ron Rivera (1st season in Washington)
  • Offensive coordinator Scott Turner (1st)
  • Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (1st)
  • Special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor (2nd)

Seattle:

  • Head coach Matt Rhule (1st season in Carolina)
  • Offensive coordinator Joe Brady (1st)
  • Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow (1st)
  • Special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn (1st)

BIGGEST STORYLINES

-- What's interesting vs. what's important: When Washington's 2020 schedule was first announced, head coach Ron Rivera was asked about the team playing the Carolina Panthers in Week 16. With a hint of sarcasm, Rivera asked, "We play Carolina this year?"

With Rivera taking the Panthers from being the NFL's worst team in 2010 to appearing in Super Bowl 50 five years later, there was already a bevy of attention swirling around the matchup. That has increased since Washington is in position to make the playoffs, and Rivera knows outside media will try to make the main story more about him facing his former team. But in sticking to his mantra about focusing on what is important over what is interesting, Rivera wants to keep the conversation on Washington trying to make the playoffs.

"My thoughts are that we need to win the football game," Rivera said. "We've got to go out there and we've got to want to play to our abilities. We've got to want to play our best and we've got to want to win the game. It is, it's the most important game we're about to play because this one takes another step. We have to go out and do those things."

-- The division crown is at stake: While a win over the Seahawks would have certainly helped secure Washington's playoff chances, a loss did not hurt them because the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles lost their respective games as well. That has created a playoff scenario that leans in Washington's favor; should Washington win and the Giants lose to the Ravens, Washington will win the division and earn a home playoff game. As of Thursday, Washington is a two-point favorite over the Panthers, while the Giants are 10.5-point underdogs to the Ravens.

Washington has experienced a sudden turnaround in the past month after falling to 2-7 to start Rivera's first season. Four straight wins over the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers put the team at 6-7 and in first place in the NFC East. What was thought to be a rebuilding year has now turned into a playoff push, and making the postseason would be a milestone that was set in Week 5 by Rivera and the team.

"The first four were about seeing what we were as a football team, kind of feeling it out. But then looking at it Week 5 was really where I thought: 'Hey, you know what, we have a shot for the playoffs because of the way the division is," Rivera said. "Nobody has started out 3-1 or 4-0.' I just thought: 'Wow. There's a chance.' That's kind of what we're working toward. That's kind of where I would love to have the focus stay."

-- A battle of Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates: It has been a solid rookie season for Chase Young between being named to his first Pro Bowl and being a key cog in one the NFL's best defensive lines. He's the odd-on favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn has been just as dominant in several categories.

Chinn, who the Panthers drafted in the second round out of Southern Illinois, leads the team with 102 tackles. He has recorded a sack, four quarterback hits and two tackles for a loss. The biggest example of his impact came in Week 12 against the Minnesota Vikings when he recovered two fumbles, both of which he returned for touchdowns.

Young might not have the pass-rushing production that was expected, but he has affected the defense in the way Rivera predicted when Washington drafted him. He has 38 tackles, eight quarterback hits, 5.5 sacks, three pass deflections, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery that he returned 47 yards for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers. After combining his talent with emerging as an emotional leader, Young has quickly become one of the most important players on Washington's roster.

"You're starting to see him really get more and more comfortable in our share and just how important it is to do things within the framework of the defense," Rivera said after the 49ers game. "Things that these guys do impact the players next to them, and that's one of the big things they have to understand as they're growing and developing in this defense."

INDIVIDUAL STATS LEADERS

Washington:

  • Passing Yards -- QB Alex Smith (1,420)
  • Passing TDs -- QBs Dwayne Haskins Jr.(5)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB Antonio Gibson (659)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB Antonio Gibson (11)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR Terry McLaurin (1,078)
  • Receiving TDs -- TE Logan Thomas (5)
  • Tackles -- LB Jon Bostic (102)
  • Sacks -- DE Montez Sweat (7.0)
  • Interceptions -- CB Kendall Fuller (4)

Carolina:

  • Passing Yards -- QB Teddy Bridgewater (3,360)
  • Passing TDs -- QB Teddy Bridgewater (14)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB Mike Davis (614)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB Mike Davis, QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Christian McCaffrey (5)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR DJ Moore (1,055)
  • Receiving TDs -- WR DJ Moore (4)
  • Tackles -- S Jeremy Chinn (102)
  • Sacks -- DE Brian Burns (8.0)
  • Interceptions -- CB Donte Jackson (3)

TEAM STATS LEADERS

Washington:

  • Total offense -- 29th (317.3 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- T-25th (21.6 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 25th (217.3 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- 29th (44)
  • Rushing offense -- 25th (100.0 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- 27th (38.5%)
  • Total defense -- 4th (312.6 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- 5th (21.1 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- 3rd (200.2 YPG)
  • Sacks -- T-6th (40.0)
  • Rushing defense -- 13th (112.4 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 8th (37.4%)
  • Time of possession -- 17th (30:14)
  • Turnover differential -- 21st (-3)

Carolina:

  • Total offense -- 20th (356.6 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- 22nd (23.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 16th (248.2 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- T-14th (29)
  • Rushing offense -- 20th (108.4 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- 22nd (40.4%)
  • Total defense -- 19th (359.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- T-19th (25.4 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- 19th (239.7 YPG)
  • Sacks -- T-23rd (24)
  • Rushing defense -- T17th (119.4 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 30th (50%)
  • Time of possession -- 12th (30:47)
  • Turnover differential -- T-10th (+4)

INJURY REPORT:

Check out the injury report for Washington's game against the Panthers, HERE.

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