The football world is excited to see the most exciting player from the 2011 draft take on the the most exciting player from the 2012 draft, but Sunday's matchup between the Washington Redskins and the Carolina Panthers goes beyond that.
Carolina's season might be a lost cause, but the Redskins are only two games out of a wild-card spot in the wide-open NFC.
Here's my final preview of the matchup, along with a prediction.
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition: Establish balance against a defense that features a great pass rush.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition: Limit Cam Newton and Steve Smith and force the Panthers to beat them with their inconsistent running game.
How Washington can lose: By letting Carolina's sneaky-good pass rush get to Robert Griffin III.
Five most important non-quarterbacks: Alfred Morris, Josh Wilson, Trent Williams, Tyler Polumbus, Ryan Kerrigan
Morris has to bounce back with a big game against a weak front seven, while Wilson will likely have to face Steve Smith often. Williams and Polumbus will be key to helping RG3 against that solid pass rush. It would be a huge bonus if Kerrigan could finally get it going in order to limit Newton.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
Out: Pierre Garcon (foot), Brandon Meriweather (knee)
Questionable: Perry Riley (hamstring)
Probable: London Fletcher (hamstring), David Jones (Achilles), Saverio Rocca (right knee), Josh Wilson (shoulder)
They absolutely need Riley, especially with Fletcher ailing and struggling and Brian Orakpo out. Meriweather's return would have helped a lot against Newton and Smith, but at least they're used to not having those guys at this point.
Injury analysis Panthers edition
Doubtful: Antwan Applewhite (hamstring), Thomas Keiser (elbow), Brandon LaFell (head)
Questionable: Frank Alexander (knee), Dwan Edwards (ankle)
Probable: Thomas Davis (knee), Geoff Hangartner (knee), Ben Hartsock (ankle)
LaFell's likely absence makes things easier, because Louis Murphy will become Carolina's No. 2 receiver. Washington's secondary isn't complaining.
B/R NFC East blog prediction
I don't think Carolina's defense can slow down Griffin like Pittsburgh's was able to, and Washington should be good enough defensively to hold a one-dimensional offense in check at home. The Redskins keep their season alive with a victory in a tight game.
Redskins 26, Panthers 23
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