Washington’s trip to Charlotte has unexpected playoff stakes
Since Ron Rivera has taken the helm as the Washington Football Team’s head coach, many players and coaches who formerly played or coached in Charlotte have found a new home in the DMV. There are frankly too many to name, so that description will need to suffice.
To make matters even juicier in terms of storylines, the Carolina Panthers brought back franchise legend and former MVP Cam Newton. The same quarterback that led Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50, in the franchise’s best year ever.
As Taylor Heinicke put it best himself, Cam Newton is “like the God of Charlotte.” I, as a native Charlottean, second that statement. As polarizing a figure as he can be, he energized the city like no athlete has ever done in the Queen City.
So with many former Panthers making the trip down to Charlotte for Washington and the return of Cam, off the field, this game is not without its storylines. It is being tabbed as a “reunion game” or here locally in Charlotte as the “Ron vs Cam” game.
There really is much more buzz surrounding a game featuring a 3-6 team and a 5-5 team han there normally would be.
However, the matchup on Sunday has significance on the actual playing field as well. Quite frankly, as surprising as this sounds, the matchup between the Washington Football Team and Carolina Panthers is a huge one in terms of the Wild Card race, and here is why.
Washington vs Carolina has playoff implications
I know, this sounds crazy. A week ago today, the Washington Football Team was a team with no direction and on the fast track to a top-five pick. Yours truly even wrote why the Broncos was a game, where a loss essentially ended their season.
That was written with the notion that the Buccaneers was a near-guaranteed loss. Well, a shocking win against the defending Super Bowl Champions changes things for Washington. It puts them right in the same situation they would have been if they had beaten the Broncos. Still in the hunt, but with little room for error.
And quite frankly, with a performance as dominant as the one Washington displayed against a Super Bowl Contender, it is hard not to think that the team may have turned a corner.
Then there are the standings. With a 3-6 record, Washington is a mere 1.5 games back of the third wild card spot. The team in the third Wild Card spot is the….. 5-5 Carolina Panthers.
With a win, Washington will find themselves amidst a two-game win streak, as they inch closer to that last Wild Card spot. They would be firmly in the race for the third Wild Card spot. The Panthers with a win will hold their spot as the last team in the NFC playoffs.
With a loss, Washington will be in a similar situation as they were last week. A team that still has a chance to make the playoffs but it is a slim one at that. A Panthers loss will throw them into the slog of teams vying for that spot once more.
And most importantly, the winner of this game would have the all-important tie-breaker over one another, which could prove crucial in January. Washington already holds the tie-breaker over the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons, who are also in the hunt for the last spot in the playoffs.
For a game that features a team three games under .500 and another that is .500, this one has surprising playoff stakes.
And this game certainly goes well beyond the “Cam Newton’s first home back in Charlotte” or “Ron Rivera returns to Charlotte” storylines. This game has potential playoff stakes. And it is a must-win for both teams, but especially the Washington Football Team.
The upset over Tampa Bay win was great. It kept the season alive and showed the locker room has not quit on the coaching staff. However, the win will ring hollow if there are no additional building blocks attached to it. And the addition of those potential blocks starts in Charlotte on Sunday.