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Desperate Redskins host hungry Panthers

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Desperate Redskins host hungry Panthers

What: Panthers (1-6) vs. Redskins (3-5) 

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox WTTG-5

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet noon and 4

The Redskins have arrived at the first crossroads of the Robert Griffin III era. 

On Sunday, the season can go one of two ways when they host the one-victory Panthers. With a win, they’ll enter the bye week confident, pointed in a positive direction and looking ahead to getting back some injured starters on the other side. A loss, though, and any serious discussion of making the playoffs can be shelved until 2013. It could also foreshadow another second-half collapse.

“This is where, normally, football teams are taken over by their veterans,” Coach Mike Shanahan said this week. “It can go one direction or the other, and you expect these guys to play at a higher level. It’s either step up or shut up; it’s where you’ve got to get it done.”

Shanahan is not often so blunt when speaking publicly. But there’s no doubt that the seriousness of the situation demanded such a tone.

His Redskins are coming off their worst performance of the season, an unsightly 27-12 defeat in Pittsburgh. Receivers dropped a combined 10 passes, the defense generated virtually no pass rush and allowed a third-string running back to gain 107 yards, special teams struggled and cornerback DeAngelo Hall was ejected for losing his cool with an official.

The 15-point margin of defeat, meantime, was the largest of the season.

On paper, hosting the scuffling Panthers appears to be the break the Redskins need to bounce back. Except Washington is 1-2 at home and Carolina is not the pushover its record suggests. 

Cam Newton and his teammates have been competitive in all but one game, dropping their past four by a total of 12 points, including a 23-22 loss to the NFC North leading Bears last week. Newton has not been as dynamic as he was during his record-breaking rookie season, but the 6 foot 5, 245-pound dual threat quarterback remains a threat to break off huge chunks of yardage -- through the air or on the ground -- against a Washington defense that’s yielded 28.4 points per game as well as league-worst 2,514 passing yards and 19 passing touchdowns.

In fact, the Redskins are on pace to become the first team in NFL history to allow 5,000 yards in the air in a single season. 

Griffin, Alfred Morris and the rest of the Redskins’ offense, meantime, must find a way to get going against a menacing Panthers’ front four. Linemen Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Dwan Edwards have combined 15 sacks -- one more than the entire Redskins’ defense -- and Carolina ranks a respectable 15th in yards allowed per game (343.9). 

Johnson will likely matchup against tackle Tyler Polumbus, while Trent Williams is expected to handle Hardy.

Indeed, the Redskins cannot afford to look past the Panthers and forward to a week off. Not now, not given what’s at stake. 

“We still have all of our goals in front of us,” Williams said. “We can be a playoff team if we go on a run.” 

That run, however, must begin Sunday.

Here are some other storylines the team at www.csnwashington.com will be monitoring:

1—Newton vs. Griffin. Although Griffin has mostly been compared to Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck because they were taken 1-2 in the draft, the better comparison is Griffin and Newton. Their teams run similar schemes, each possesses a cannon for an arm and both are as likely to keep the ball on an option as pitch it.

Newton is passing for 243 yards per game and rushing for 44.3, while Griffin is passing for 222 and rushing for 59.5. The big difference is their touchdown to interception ratio. Newton has tossed five touchdowns and eight interceptions, while Griffin has thrown eight touchdowns and three picks.

Asked what he thought of the comparison, Griffin said: “I’d rather be compared to Aaron Rodgers or a guy like that, someone who’s won Super Bowls.”

2—Aldrick Robinson reemerges. After falling out of favor following a miscue-riddled performance in St. Louis, the speedy wide receiver is expected to receive ample playing time against the Panthers.

With No. 1 receiver Pierre Garçon expected to be sidelined again, the move was made to inject some speed into the lineup and shake things up after a big drop by Leonard Hankerson last Sunday.

“Aldrick is one of the faster guys in the NFL,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “And he’s getting better at his routes and blocking.” 

3—Special teams struggles. After a mostly uneventful Weeks 5-7, the units contributed to the Redskins’ misery last week at Heinz Field. Kicker Kai Forbath kicked a PAT too low and it was blocked, and punter Sav Rocca kicked a 12-yard punt that Pittsburgh parlayed into a scoring drive.

This week, Mike Shanahan revealed that Rocca has been punting with a torn meniscus in the knee on his kicking leg. Despite his gutsy effort, he and the Redskins know the team cannot afford another shank.

“Anytime he has a punt like he did,” Shanahan said, “you know it is bothering him a little bit.”

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The due date of Kirk Cousins' baby is getting closer to a critical part of the NFL schedule

The due date of Kirk Cousins' baby is getting closer to a critical part of the NFL schedule

Once upon a time, one Redskins quarterback infamously announced that he was all in for Week 1. The Redskins' current QB, however, is most certainly not.

While talking to the media on Wednesday at his team's OTAs, Kirk Cousins said that the baby he and his wife, Julie, are expecting is projected to come earlier than the couple originally thought. That's, of course, tremendous news for the two, but it could also present a large issue due to what Cousins does for a living.

"Yeah, the baby's due in mid-September," he said. "Was supposed to be Week 2, but we got the 20-week ultrasound and they moved it up a week. So, we're looking for around Week 1, between Week 1 and Week 2. We're praying that it'll come on a day where it doesn't conflict with any important football matters."

MORE REDSKINS: A FULL SCOUTING REPORT ON EACH OF WASHINGTON'S OPPONENTS

Again — congratulations to Kirk and Julie. Babies are fun and cute and they're worth a ton of Instagram likes and, overall, they're something worth celebrating. But when Cousins says he's hoping that the baby arrives on a non-gameday, he's not alone; the Redskins will have a much better shot of beating the Eagles on September 10 if he's under center and not Colt McCoy, after all.

Fortunately, any day that isn't a Sunday during that month should mean that the 28-year-old can enjoy the birth of his first child and Washington can enjoy having their franchise passer take the field in crucial early matchups. And whenever the next member of the Cousins clan finally does show up, Julie is prepared to run the show so her husband can run the offense.

"We're excited, and Julie's been great," Kirk said. "She's just been outstanding the whole time and she's already told me that she's going to carry the weight the first few months so I can focus on football, and she's gonna be a big help. We're looking forward to that. Lots to look forward to right now, I'm in a good place."

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN ON MATT JONES' ABSENCE 

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The biggest addition, strength and question for each Redskins' 2017 opponent

The biggest addition, strength and question for each Redskins' 2017 opponent

You already know the Redskins' 2017 schedule. But do you know what makes each opponent on that schedule a threat, or what pressing question each of those teams needs to answer?

With free agency and the draft in the past, and OTAs now picking up, it's finally time to really start previewing the upcoming NFL season. With that in mind, CSNmidatlantic.com has created a gallery that does just that. 

CLICK HERE FOR CSN'S SCOUTING REPORT ON EACH OF THE REDSKINS' 2017 OPPONENTS

Look no further than the link above or below to find out the new faces the Redskins will be dealing with starting this fall, as well as where their foes are strongest. Plus, you'll get a look at a to-do item the 13 franchises that Washington's slated to play must address out in order for their own campaigns to be successful. 

As a Redskins fan, you're familiar with all things Burgundy and Gold. Allow this gallery to update you on everyone else.

CLICK HERE FOR CSN'S SCOUTING REPORT ON EACH OF THE REDSKINS' 2017 OPPONENTS