The Panthers are on the road this weekend to face their old head coach, Ron Rivera and the NFC East-leading Washington football team. This will mark Rivera’s first time facing his old team since he was fired by Carolina at the end of last season.
Rivera has helped Washington (6-8) this season while simultaneously undergoing cancer treatments and dealing with his team’s ever-changing quarterback situation. Washington began the season with Dwayne Haskins as the starter at QB. He was replaced by former Panther Kyle Allen in October, but the team eventually had to turn to Alex Smith after Allen dislocated an ankle in a Week 9 loss to the Giants.
Smith started the next five games for Rivera before he was ultimately sidelined by a leg injury two weeks ago against San Francisco. Haskins filled in last week in a 20-15 loss to Seattle, but his status for Sunday is up in the air after he was fined $40,000 earlier this week for breaking COVID-19 protocols and attending a strip club without a mask after the loss to Seattle.
It’s unclear whether Haskins or Smith will start Sunday, but whoever plays, they’ll go up against a Carolina defense which will be without one of its best players in defensive end Brian Burns.
Burns suffered a knee injury last week while sacking Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and is doubtful to play this week. Burns currently leads the team with 8.0 sacks and 20 quarterback hits.
The Panthers (4-10) put together one of their better defensive performances of the season in the second half against Green Bay last weekend. Carolina will have a chance to keep that momentum alive this week against a Washington team that currently ranks 29th in the league in yards per game (317.3).
While Washington’s offense ranks near the bottom of the league, its defense is one of the NFL’s best young units. Washington ranks fourth in total defense, allowing an average of 312.6 yards per game.
Leading the way for Washington’s defensive front are defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat, who have combined for 12.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles so far this season. Carolina will hope to keep the two pass-rushers at bay after Green Bay sacked Teddy Bridgewater three times last week.
The Panthers will once again be without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, who will miss his sixth straight game and 12th overall this season. McCaffrey is currently dealing with a thigh injury, although he could theoretically be back for Carolina’s final game of the 2020 season next week against Tampa Bay.
Carolina will have to lean on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to lead the way once again. Bridgewater has struggled of late after a nice opening to the season, completing 88-of-135 passes for 944 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions over his last four games.