NFL: Panthers-Redskins preview
CHARLOTTE ó At this rate you’d expect the Redskins’ next opponent will be a directional school, or maybe even a Championship Subdivision team.
In a stretch that would make even cupcake-collecting college coaches blush, Washington (2-2) visits Carolina (0-3) on Sunday set to become the first NFL team in 55 years to play a winless teams in each of the first five weeks of the season.
Granted, the opener was a loss to the still unbeaten New York Giants. Since then the Redskins eked past struggling St. Louis, became the first team in 20 games to lose to Detroit and barely edged woeful Tampa Bay.
The last team to face five winless opponents in a row was the 1954 Giants. No team has faced six straight teams without a victory, and 0-4 Kansas City sparkles on the schedule next week like a homecoming foe.
“Oh, wow,” Redskins running back and captain Rock Cartwright said when told of matching the 55-year-old mark. “I mean, if that’s the case, then we probably should be 4-0. But that’s not the case.”
Their offense is struggling so much against the weak competition that longtime assistant Sherman Lewis was brought in this week to be an “extra set of eyes.”
Team officials downplayed talk that’s a bad sign for embattled coach Jim Zorn, whose task is to keep desperate Carolina winless.
“The hardest teams to beat are the ones that are searching for a win right now,” Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell said. “The reason is because teams feel like they are back against a wall and they play with a lot more urgency and a lot harder.”
The Panthers are in that position. They’ve gone from NFC South champions to disarray thanks to injuries, a disappointing defense and Jake Delhomme’s bushel of turnovers. They had a bye last weekend and were forced to ponder the statistic that only three teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after starting 0-3.
It’s easy to see why both teams are in such predicaments. They can’t score or hold onto the ball.
The Panthers’ minus-8 turnover margin is the worst in the league, with Delhomme committing 15 in his last 15 quarters. The Panthers are averaging 12.3 points a game, 29th in the league.
Campbell threw a career-high three interceptions last week and has fumbled a league-high seven times.
So maybe it’s not a surprise the Panthers, despite being outscored 87-37 this season, are favored.
“We’ve got a lot of 0-fers that we’ve been playing against this year so far, but that’s just part of it,” Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle El said. “Mark it as an underdog? Great! Keep marking us as an underdog. We’ll just come out and again and focus on us and worry about us and go down and take of our business.”
Also today, it’s New England at Denver; Atlanta at San Francisco; Houston at Arizona; Indianapolis at Tennessee; Pittsburgh at Detroit; Minnesota at St. Louis; Dallas at Kansas City; Indianapolis at Tennessee; Tampa Bay at Philadelphia; Oakland at the New York Giants; Cleveland at Buffalo; and Jacksonville at Seattle.
The New York Jets visit Miami on Monday night.