Keeping momentum is the key
If there's been a bright spot in a lousy season, it might be that the Panthers have gotten off to decent starts in each of their past two games - leading Atlanta 10-7 in the second quarter and taking a 7-0 lead at halftime against the Cowboys. Both those leads, of course, were blown. Now they face a Redskins team that averages 3.2 points in the first half. All that's left is for the Panthers - if they can take advantage of that Washington tendency - would be to finish the job.
Old buddies reunite
It has been two years since Panthers receiver STEVE SMITH baited then-Atlanta cornerback DEANGELO HALL into three embarrassing penalties in the second half of a Carolina victory against the Falcons. After being cut loose by the Falcons, then the Raiders, Hall is part of a Redskins defense that ranks fourth in the NFL. He's got two interceptions this season. What wouldn't he give to get one today at the expense of Smith?
Ain't too proud to beg
How far are the Panthers away from something like this happening? The Redskins brought in SHERMAN LEWIS as an "consultant" for their struggling offense this week. It wasn't coach JIM ZORN'S idea - that goes to executive director of football operations VINNY CERRATO - but Zorn said he hoped he wasn't "too proud" to listen to other ideas.
Tight end alert
The Panthers might want to keep an eye on the Redskins' CHRIS COOLEY. Carolina has been torched by opposing tight ends this season, surrendering big numbers to Philadelphia's BRENT CELEK (six catches, 37 yards, one touchdown), Atlanta's TONY GONZALEZ (seven catches, 71 yards, one touchdown) and Dallas' JASON WITTEN (nine catches, 77 yards). Cooley leads the Redskins with 22 catches for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Many of those tight end receptions have come underneath the Panthers' coverage in the secondary.
1 NFL rank in field-goal percentage (John Kasay is three-for-three, tied for top spot).
32 NFL rank (that's last) in five categories: Turnover margin, passes had intercepted, net punt average, rush defense, punt-return average.
26:36 Average time of possession, nearly seven minutes less than opponents (33:24).
40 Tackles by linebacker Thomas Davis, on pace to break team record of linebacker Jon Beason (160 in 2007).
54.3 Quarterback Jake Delhomme's passer rating (30th in the league).
17.8 Average kickoff return yards allowed, best in NFL.
25 Career 100-yard rushing games by Clinton Portis, most in Redskins history.
56 Tackles by linebacker London Fletcher, tops in the league.
180 Consecutive games by Fletcher, second longest among active NFL players (Brett Favre), excluding specialists.
1,872 Yards after catch by Chris Cooley since 2004, most by a tight end in that span.
- David Scott, Charlotte Observer
Scott Fowler's observations
This is a game where the Panthers need to run something like 40 times for 180 yards. That's their game plan for success. Quarterback JAKE DELHOMME is much more effective if teams actually believe the play-action fake.
One big problem: Washington's 350-pound defensive tackle ALBERT HAYNESWORTH. The Hartsville native might be the league's best run-stuffer.
The last time he faced Carolina, in 2007, he had three sacks while playing for Tennessee and running after the hapless DAVID CARR. When asked about Haynesworth this week, Panther running back DEANGELO WILLIAMS said: "That's the million dollar man over there - the $100 million man. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to short him $99 million."
Indeed, Haynesworth signed a seven-year, $100 million offseason deal.
When asked what sort of impact Haynesworth can make, Williams said: "Huge. I mean, in all aspects - his body size and his wallet and his game on the field. He is a three-dimensional player."
I love that quote.
Another big question today: Which No. 89 is more electrifying? The Redskins' SANTANA MOSS has had better statistics than Carolina's Steve Smith so far, scoring twice on touchdowns of more than 55 yards.
After a week off, the Panthers are as healthy as they can be and are playing a team with about as many problems as they have. I think Carolina pulls out its first win of the season.
Carolina 23, Washington 17