- Even though it is a Victory Tuesday we seek, there is a little bit of a Victory Monday feeling this morning. When the final whistle sounded on the late game between the Cowboys and Buccaneers last night, the Redskins officially moved into the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. The road to the playoffs is officially paved, with Washington now firmly back in control of its own destiny.
- First thing’s first: the Panthers come to FedEx this evening for a prime time game that once looked far more intimidating. The win over the Green Bay Packers earlier this season exorcised a lot of demons for me, but I think it would be fair to suggest that prime time affairs still present a bit of a fluttery feeling for Redskins fans. With so much on the line, and against a team like Carolina that is absolutely good enough to show up and win any game it plays, the Redskins could really take a step forward as an organization on Monday Night Football. And yet, why do I feel so confident? Cam Newton is for real. The Panthers defense still boasts top-tier talent (even though Luke Kuechly is likely not playing). I shouldn’t be this confident. I haven’t been this foolishly optimistic since I bought a 30-pack of condoms back in college.
- The Josh Norman factor is real. There will continue to be those who argue that the Carolina Panthers acted in their own best interests when they released Josh Norman. There will continue to be sane, smart people ready to call B.S. on that argument. This is a revenge game for one of the league’s best defensive players. Sure, the Redskins defense has been groin-punchingly bad on third downs and not much better against the run, but never underestimate the impact of a teammate desperate to prove something. It has to be the right teammate, of course. All players want to win, but not all players are All-Pro talents coming off of an offseason of scorn. Josh Norman is the kind of player that teammates flock to in moments like this—the best player on the defensive side of the ball that has spent 14 weeks proving what kind of man he is. In my heart of hearts, I think Norman will make a decisive play tonight, but I also think it is just as possible that he is the inspiration for one of his teammates to make that play. He will be on tilt this evening, and I think we are all looking to see him try and achieve the perfect mix of playing under control while simultaneously playing unleashed.
- I know I have been the conductor on the Trade Desean Jackson train, but that talk is behind us. In a game like this, he is the kind of player on offense that we need to be looking to for big plays. He is on a bit of a streak lately when it comes to gamebreakers, and we need to keep that going. This is the “Let’s not get too cute about this” point of the season. We know that the best guy the Panthers had in the last 12 months to cover DeSean now plays for us. He will be open down the field, and Kirk Cousins needs to let ‘er rip. Jordan Reed will hopefully be more than just a decoy, which means that he will see more legit targets all over the field as well. With a playoff spot on the line, it’s time to dance with the girl we brought—meaning that the Redskins need to just keep being the Redskins on offense.
- Win, and the world will call you a winner. As I said to Kevin and T during last week’s recording of The Audible, FedEx Field should be buzzing tonight. The playoffs are within our grasp and we face the NFC representative from last year’s Super Bowl. It’s December, it’s cold, and it’ on. I am sure there will be some Panthers supporters in the house tonight, but I don’t expect any kind of takeover. Carolina is 5-8 and their postseason hopes were officially dashed last night—not exactly the kind of team you expect to have throngs of fans following up I-95. My greater point here is about the Redskins winning for the world to see, with our fans dominating the scene. The fact that the Panthers are on the ropes matters not—they are still the Panthers and they are still barely removed from a season that saw them chase undefeated stature. You want me to say it? Fine. The Carolina Panthers are the best 5-8 team in the league. Hahahaha...
- As I prepare for the tailgate and game this evening, I am reminded of the first week of the season. I was in Denver, and I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the NFL’s Kickoff Extravaganza. I watched the Denver Broncos open their season with a win over these same Carolina Panthers. On that night, I recall thinking that something just seemed off about the Panthers. I honestly expected them to roll a Bronco team with Trevor Siemian under center. A lot has happened since then of course, as we now see Denver is no longer in control of their playoff destiny. Put simply: the Redskins are a better team than the Panthers. Granted, this has not always translated into victories for the Redskins, especially in this particular spot in the TV lineup. Still, I find myself feeling very, very good about our chances this evening, and I very much look forward to seeing our offense take this game over. A win makes tomorrow night’s taping of The Audible a holiday spectacular!
It’s all laid out for the Redskins tonight against the Carolina Panthers.