- In the past six weeks, the Panthers defense ranks in the bottom five in EPA/play, while the Washington defense ranks in the top five
- Washington have won four of their last five, while the Panthers have won just one of their last nine
Back in Week 5, the Carolina Panthers were 3-2 having won five straight. They were one of the hottest teams in the NFL under new head coach Matt Rhule and were potentially on the move in the NFC South. Meanwhile, the Washington Football were 1-4, having lost four games by double-digits. They were seemingly sinking without anything to save them.
Entering Week 16, the picture is very different. The Panthers won just once more, while Washington lead the NFC East and could clinch the division in Week 16. That is despite seemingly starting a new quarterback every other week and with an offense that has just a handful of players people actually recognise.
The Panthers losses always feel frustrating. They seem to be in games until they aren’t and their offence never seems able to do quite enough, but their defense doesn’t seem like it is failing either. Now the efficiency numbers tell a different story. The Panthers defense has been one of the worst in the league in the past five weeks and they need to fix it immediately.
They have struggled to stop teams on third down, allowing a 50% conversion rate (third worst in the league). That has resulted in them ranking in the bottom five in points allowed per drive and plays per drive. They struggle to stop opposing running games, allowing a fourth-worst 4.7 yards per attempt.
Meanwhile, the Washington defense is one of the best in the league. They allow just 51.4% of red-zone opportunities to be converted into touchdowns, and rank in the top 10 in third-down conversion rate. They allow just 1.77 points per drive and 26.8 yards per drive, both ranking in the top five. They are a top 10 defense against the pass, and while they do struggle more against the run, they still rank in the top half of the league.
I have mentioned this theory of mine in the past, but when you get a game where the better offense faces a good defense, while the worse offense faces a bad defense, I lean to the bad offense stepping up against the poor defense. The Washington offense have proven they can be successful against bad defenses in the past.
This has the feeling of a low scoring game where the Washington defense makes crucial plays down the stretch to preserve a victory. We have seen them stepping up this season and I expect them to again. For that reason, Washington -2 is the play here with a the under being the way to go on the total.
NFL Expert Picks
1u – Washington -2 @ -105
1u – Under 44.5 total points @ -108
NFL Free Picks
It's a festive week and we have plenty of football to get stuck into. There's no Thursday Night Football this week but we have the Vikings travel to New Orleans to face the Saints on Christmas Day. Saturday gives us a triple threat of football to wager on. The Bucs can secure playoffs if they beat the Lions. Elsewhere the Dolphins face the Raiders and the 49ers play the Cardinals.
Sunday sees a number of matches with playoff implications, the Rams @ Seahawks being the most important. We'll also see the Jets and Jaguars play, with fans of the New Yorkers praying that Jacksonville wins and puts them back in the hotseat for Trevor Lawrence. The Titans face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. Monday's game is a dead rubber in all reality, as the Bills travel to play the Patriots, with New England officially out of playoff contention.
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