The NFL is a league full of surprises. This year, the Washington Football Team has definitely been one of them. Washington has gone from the second-worst team in the NFL to a division leader with two weeks to go in the season.
Yes, part of that is because the NFC East is weak, but part of that is also because Washington has exceeded expectations this season.
Chase Young has been better than advertised and has really made this Washington defense elite. Additions like Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby have been exceptional in the secondary, and offensive breakouts from Logan Thomas and Antonio Gibson have made this team dangerous.
Are they good enough to win a playoff game? Hold your horses, let’s see if they make the playoffs first before we get there.
Here are four bold predictions for Washington’s Week 16 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
1. Washington pass rush gets 4+ sacks
The Washington Football Team “first-round front” on defense has been the driving force behind the team’s late playoff push. Coming off a zero-sack performance against the Seattle Seahawks last week, Washington’s defense is going to come out firing on Sunday.
Washington has only recorded zero sacks in a game twice this season. The last time it happened against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington responded with a four-sack performance.
The Panthers have an average offensive line, and only give up 2.1 sacks per game. However, the Panthers have given up seven sacks over the last two games and have been struggling to protect Bridgewater.
Washington ranks seventh in sacks per game. Expect a healthy number of sacks in Week 16.
2. Terry McLaurin has over 100 yards receiving
Scary Terry was off to a red hot start this season but has been relatively quiet the last few games and hasn’t topped 100 yards since Week 9.
He has still been effective, nonetheless, but McLaurin is due for a breakout game. What better game would that be than a potential playoff-clinching game?
Terry McLaurin is easily the team’s top wide receiver and Carolina’s secondary hasn’t been good all season. McLaurin is also a favorite target of Dwayne Haskins who is slated to start on Sunday, barring a late Alex Smith substitution. With Shaq Thompson likely defending Logan Thomas, McLaurin should get even more targets against the Panthers.
Scary Terry regains Pro Bowl form and has a big performance in Week 16.
3. Washington will allow fewer than 20 points
The Washington defense is going to be heavily relied on to win them this game, and they are going to do their part.
Washington’s pass rush has been very effective, but their linebacker play and secondary have also been solid.
Both Darby and Fuller are ranked in the top-40 cornerbacks according to Pro Football Focus. Cole Holcomb, a second-year linebacker, is the eighth-ranked linebacker in the NFL this season, according to PFF, and he is expected to return from injury in Week 16 as well.
This well-rounded defense will give Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers all they can handle and more. Expect a low-scoring bout between the Panthers and Washington.
4. Washington Wins, Clinching NFC East
The Washington Football Team has the potential to clinch a playoff berth this week. With a Washington win and a New York Giants loss, Washington will have clinched the NFC East.
Washington is going up against a 4-10 Panthers team who are without Christian McCaffrey and are eliminated from playoff contention. Washington’s offense needs to control the pace of the game and Washington’s defense should hold the Panthers off to get the win.
The Giants, on the other hand, are going into Baltimore to play the Ravens who are in desperate need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Ravens are 4-2 at home and are currently on a big three-game win streak entering Week 16.
The Giants are getting Daniel Jones back, but that still shouldn’t be enough to beat the star-studded Ravens.
Washington will win in Week 16 and there will be a new NFC East champion in 2020.
This matchup looks like it’s going to be a low-scoring, defensive showdown. The Washington offense will run the ball early and often against the Panthers. JD McKissic will handle the majority workload, but don’t be surprised if Antonio Gibson makes a return.
The Panthers have an opportunity to play spoiler on Sunday and are not going to go down without a fight.
This game is going to be a close one.