Midweek Musings ...
When it comes to so many things regarding the Carolina Panthers, there is no margin for error. That's especially true after the Panthers' 34-31 defeat in New Orleans. It was Carolina's third straight loss and fourth in five games, one that further widened the gap between the NFC South-leading Saints.
That loss, however, felt a little different than other setbacks this season.
The competitive tone was far different than during a lethargic home defeat to Atlanta a week early. A hangover to start the game spotted New Orleans a quick 14-0 lead, but Carolina quickly gathered itself. The Panthers were actually in a position to win up until the Saints broke a tie by kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired.
And yet questions linger -- perhaps as many questions as at any other point this season. Individual questions, offensive and defensive questions and, of course, riddles regarding special teams. It's so difficult to forecast what will unfold Sunday when Carolina plays Washington, a team coming off only its second win this season and its first since Week 6.
Here are five things to consider as gameday approaches at Bank of America Stadium (Sunday, 1 PM ET on CBS, Panthers -10):
- This will be the 15th meeting between the teams, with Washington holding an 8-6 lead, including a 23-17 win last season at Fedex Field. Before that, the Panthers beat Washington five straight times between 2009 and 2016.
- Which Panthers team will line up for the opening kickoff? The one that was thoroughly dominated by Atlanta and some other teams at points this season? Or the one that showed moxie and clawed back from a 14-0 deficit to eventually tie New Orleans with 9:23 remaining? Either way, the uncertainty has helped fuel an already unsettled fanbase.
- The offensive line took a big hit with guard Greg Van Roten being placed on Injured Reserve with a season-ending foot injury. Likewise for the defensive line, as a quad injury has placed defensive tackle Dontari Poe on IR. Daryl Williams will move to left guard; free-agent signee Stacy McGee will take over for Poe.
- Kyle Allen looked like Kyle Allen version 1.0 against the Saints -- that being the interception-free quarterback who led Carolina during a four-game win streak after taking over for Cam Newton in Week 3. Allen was 23 of 36 for 256 and three touchdowns and no turnovers. He now faces a middle-of-the-pack Washington defense that's 11th in the NFL by allowing 234.1 passing yards a game and 14th with 29 sacks. It has, however, picked off 12 passes (fourth).
- The Panthers worked out four kickers on Monday before signing Greg Joseph to the practice squad. Of course, this is reaction to Joey Slye missing two PATs as well as a 28-yard field goal that would've given Carolina its only lead with 1:56 remaining. And it creates the likely correct assumption that Joseph will be promoted and the incumbent kicker shown the door if Slye struggles against Washington.