The Carolina Panthers and the Washington Redskins will both be trying to pick up a win on Monday when they battle at FedExField.
Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Redskins
When: 8:30 PM ET, Monday, December 19, 2016
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
|331||CAROLINA||-4.5 (-110)||51 (-110)||220
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: Redskins -6.5.
PREDICTION: Panthers 27, Redskins 26
Oddsmakers currently have the Redskins listed as 6.5-point favorites versus the Panthers, while the game’s total is sitting at 51.
The matchup Monday night between the Carolina Panthers and host Washington Redskins has playoff implications with three games to go in the regular season.
Yet there’s another topic that naturally has been making the rounds leading up to the game in Landover, Md. (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
That’s the role of Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who played with the Panthers and was the focal point of the secondary until he wasn’t retained in the spring.
Now Norman goes against his former team. At least the Panthers don’t expect any surprises from the often-flamboyant and talkative defensive back.
“I think the guys know what to expect from Josh,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “That’s the beauty of it.”
The Redskins don’t want Norman or anything else to be a distraction because it’s a critical time for them as they try to stay in line for an NFC wild card spot. Close games have become part of the process for Washington (7-5-1).
“With the parity in the NFL, we keep grinding it out and it’s what we expect,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
The Panthers have been complimentary of Norman, noting that he became a high-level player with them the past couple of years.
“He listened and he learned and he grew,” Rivera said of Norman said. “Those long arms of his come into play. … The way he practiced improved the level of play around him. He brought a swagger to us. Guys feed off of that and that’s what happened.”
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said he can’t become consumed with Norman’s actions.
“It’s not a game about him vs. us,” Newton said. “We just need to win this game.”
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins consulted with Norman months ago about some of what to expect from Carolina’s defense.
“It really goes back to the spring,” Cousins said. “We talked some about the coverages and stuff, but at the end of the day it’s about executing.”
Cousins was in the same pre-draft training group a few years ago with Norman, so they had a connection prior to become teammates.
“What I’ve always loved about him is that he’s a worker,” Cousins said. “Winning matters to him. He has been a part of a winning team. He knows what that looks like.”
Cousins looks like a different quarterback at times as he continues to develop and might be directing a playoff-bound team.
“I see him building his confidence,” Rivera said. “I see him making good decisions. I see why they like who he is. To me, it all starts with Kirk Cousins. He has really come along. … They’ve got play makers and that’s what you have to be aware of.”
Carolina ripped the Redskins in a 44-16 home victory last season. That included the defense forcing five turnovers.
“Hopefully, we don’t turn it over five times,” Cousins said. “You’d like to think we’re a more mature team … and you protect the ball better.”
Cousins said there are lots of similarities with the Panthers defense to what the Redskins had to face a year ago.
“I remember Carolina being one of the better defenses we played all year,” Cousins said. “A lot of the same players are back. I do think their defense is still very good and smart players.”
With Norman now on the opposing team, the Redskins have been keen on praising the Panthers secondary this week. That includes rookie cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley.
“It’s hard to come into this league and play right away,” Cousins said of Carolina’s rookie cornerbacks.
Cousins has been praised for his poise and precision at times as the Redskins have hung tough in the NFC East. The offense has become more difficult to defend.
“No matter who’s on the field, we spread it around,” Cousins said. “You’re building that chemistry on knowing where guys should be.”
It’s unclear if Cousins will have to contend with Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who has missed three games because of a concussion. He returned to practice several days before last week’s game against San Diego, but ultimately wasn’t cleared to play.
The Redskins were glad to have extra time because of the Monday night game. That might give linebackers Su’a Cravens (elbow) and Will Compton (knee sprain) time to recover from ailments, while special teams player Mack Brown entered the concussion protocol based on a hit last week against Philadelphia.
The Panthers (5-8) have to win their final three games and receive quite a bit of help to land in the playoffs. It’s a complicated path to the postseason even for a team that has won four of its last seven games.
“There is no room for error and we have to rely on certain other things happening,” Rivera said. “At the end of the day, our concern is our next game. We play the Redskins on Monday night and I believe our guys are going to prep and get ready. … Our intention is to win them all.”
Washington holds a 7-5 edge in the all-time series with the Panthers, who’ve won the past four meetings.