Carolina Panthers (4-10) at Washington Football Team (6-8)
On defense, the Washington Football Team has consistently been one of the best teams in the league this season, ranking 3rd in first down rate allowed over expected at -4.26%. Their offense struggled mightily earlier this season, but, when they turned to Alex Smith under center and got their offensive line back together healthy, they improved significantly on that side of the ball, leading to a 4-1 stretch where their only loss came by 3 points.
Unfortunately, the injuries have started to pile up on that side of the ball. Their offensive line is still together, but they lost feature back Antonio Gibson in week 13 and then quarterback Alex Smith in week 14, forcing Washington to start an underwhelming backfield of Dwayne Haskins and Peyton Barber. Gibson could be back this week, but Smith is not expected to start, still at less than 100%, and Haskins will be playing without Washington’s #1 wide receiver and only downfield weapon in Terry McLaurin.
Given their struggles on offense, Washington will be very reliant on their defense in this game, which is a concern, because defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance. It’s far from a guarantee that Washington will continue being as good as they’ve been defensively going forward, especially with injuries starting to pile up on that side of the ball. Overall, Washington ranks just 24th in my roster rankings, which is a significant drop off from where they were a few weeks ago.
That being said, we are still getting a little bit of line value with Washington, who are even at home with the Panthers. The Panthers have been competitive in most of their games and rank a decent 21st in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -0.90%, but they’ve overachieved their talent level and are in even worse shape this week missing their best defensive player in Brian Burns, falling to 27th in my roster rankings. My calculated line is just Washington -1.5, so we’re not getting enough line value for Washington to be worth betting, but they are my pick for pick ‘em purposes.
Washington Football Team 26 Carolina Panthers 24
Pick against the spread: Washington PK