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NFL Preview - Carolina (1-6) at Washington (3-5)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - When it rains, it pours. And when the Carolina Panthers lose, it's usually by less than a touchdown.
The frustrating season will continue for the lowly Panthers, as they play their second straight road game Sunday against rookie sensation Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
Griffin will face last year's Rookie of the Year in Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Both Griffin and Newton have similar skill sets in that they both have strong arms and can improvise when trouble arises, but one has been more frustrated lately than the other.
Newton was reamed by the media for his postgame comments and mannerisms following a tough loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but altered course after this past Sunday's 23-22 setback at Chicago. Even though he had no touchdown passes and was intercepted twice, Newton completed 20-of-39 attempts to give Carolina a chance to end their skid. He also ran for 37 yards.
However, the subpar effort wasn't enough and the Panthers suffered their fifth straight loss to fall to 1-6 on the season. Save a 36-7 thrashing by the New York Giants in Week 3, Carolina has lost by no more than six points.
"I am running out of ways to describe this (season). It was disappointing, obviously. Our guys played well enough to give themselves a chance to win," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "The guys played well, and the guys played hard. I feel bad for those guys in that (locker room)."
The Panthers are winless in their last four road games dating back to last season.
Washington maintained its grasp of last place in the NFC East with Sunday's 27-12 loss at Pittsburgh. Griffin wasn't much of a factor in this one and passed for just 177 yards with a touchdown.
Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris, who was coming off a 120-yard performance in a tough loss at New York and was averaging 98.8 rushing yards per game in his previous four, was held to 59 yards on 13 carries in the loss, Washington's second straight and fifth in seven tries.
"To come into this environment and win you have to play one of your better games both offensively, defensively and special teams and we did not do that," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan admitted. "I'm disappointed in the number of opportunities that we had and plays we didn't make on both sides of the football."
The Steelers amassed 355 yards of offense, including 140 on the ground, against a porous Washington defense. Ben Roethlisberger picked apart the Redskins' secondary to the tune of 222 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan had the only sack in defeat.
Washington looks to right the ship with a home bout and was able to squeeze past Minnesota the last time it played at FedEx Field on Oct. 14.
The Panthers handed the Redskins a 33-20 loss last Oct. 23, when Newton passed for 256 yards and a touchdown and racked up 59 yards and a score on 10 scrambles. In fact, Carolina ran for 175 yards and finished with 407 on the day. The Redskins have won seven of 10 all-time meetings with Carolina.
Carolina has won three of the last four meetings.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Washington is still having trouble against the pass and will face another challenging against Panthers wideout Steve Smith. Smith had 118 yards on seven receptions and is starting to rekindle that bond he had with Newton a year ago. Four Steelers receivers have at least 38 yards last week.
DeAngelo Hall is Washington's most experienced defensive back and has two interceptions on the season. The Redskins could use one this week, for it should be a close matchup with Carolina. They have posted just one sack in each of the last two games, and the key to beating Newton is throwing off his timing and disrupting the pocket.
Perhaps the biggest key to Sunday's game is how both Newton and Griffin perform. They are two of the most exciting players in the league and both happen to play quarterback. Newton has the edge over the rookie Griffin since he is in his second year, and has more pressure on his shoulders for a Panthers team whose hopes are circling the drain.
RG3 has already evolved into a dynamic offensive threat with his ability to keep plays alive and create opportunities. Newton helped Carolina gain 416 total yards against the Bears, but it wasn't enough to stop the bleeding. He'll be looking to upstage Griffin on enemy ground.
Both teams enter this matchup desperate for a win, so it boils down to the one who makes the most mistakes. Lately, it's been Newton, who hasn't had the luxury of a defense making stops at critical moments of the game. Why else would the Panthers be 1-6 on the season? The Redskins are still a tough squad to slow down, including at home, but they won't have what it takes to contain Newton and a determined Panthers team trying to save Rivera's job as coach.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 21, Redskins 17
11/01 15:58:13 ET