Like the Redskins, the Panthers have mostly played close games. At 1-6, their only win of the season came in a 35-27 victory over the Saints, and they've been blown out just one time: in a Thursday night game in Week 3 against the Giants, when they lost by 29 points. The Redskins (3-5) just suffered their worst loss of the season, falling 27-12 to the Steelers. Besides that, though, they've been in every single game. So it's no surprise that the Redskins, at home, are favored by just three points.
Washington has the superior offense. They score more points per game (26.6 to 18.3) and gain more yards per game (387.4 to 347). The Panthers average slightly more passing yards per game (232.6 to 221.1), but they also throw the ball more often -- Cam Newton has just nine fewer pass attempts despite playing in one fewer game (bye week). And the Redskins, who are second to the 49ers in the league in rushing yards per game by just 0.3 yards, average 166.3 yards on the ground to the Panthers' 114.4.
Still, the Redskins' defense is one of the worst in the league, while the Panthers' unit is slightly better. The Redskins have allowed 28.4 points per game (28th) and are ranked last in pass defense; the Panthers have given up 23.9 points per game (21st) and are 15th in pass defense.
It's hard to examine this game without looking at the quarterbacks. And Robert Griffin III has also outplayed Cam Newton up to this point. Griffin has completed nearly 10 percent more of his passes (66.8 to 57.1) while throwing for slightly more yards (1,778 to 1,701). Griffin's quarterback rating of 97.3 is also seventh in the NFL; Newton's rating of 75.2 is 28th. But while Newton has accounted for eight total touchdowns (5 passing, 3 rushing), Griffin has 14 touchdowns (8 passing, 6 rushing), has rushed for 166 more yards, and has turned the ball over just five times (3 interceptions, 2 fumbles). Newton, meanwhile, already has eight interceptions and has lost four fumbles.
The Redskins didn't do a good job of it last week, but they need to shut down the Panthers' running game and force Newton into some tough throws. The front seven has not provided much pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but if they do so with Newton, he's demonstrated that he'll turn the ball over. Unless Redskins' receivers drop 10 more passes (or however many the official number was), they should be able to put up at least 20 points on a better, but still middle-of-the-road, Carolina defense.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, their horrid pass defense keeps opposing teams in every game. But fortunately, they also have Griffin, who gives the Redskins a chance to score every time he takes the field. It's not an ideal situation, but it could certainly be much worse.