Kicking off the weekend we will see all but the Jets and 49ers who have their bye week. The Eagles will fly to Green Bay to take on the unbeaten Packers.
Over the last two seasons, the Packers have stuttered despite having Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles have been flying high, however, taking a Super Bowl ring back to Philadelphia in the process. This year the roles have reversed with the Packers looking more likely to grace a Super Bowl while the Eagles have failed to take flight despite the qualities of quarterback, Carson Wentz.
This is largely down to Packers new head coach Matt LaFleur sorting out the defense who have been dominating in their games. Eagles coach, Doug Pedersen dismissed the Pack defense as, “very opportunistic” in the run-up to this one, forgetting that it is his and Wentz’ offensive line that might give those opportunities away. However, the Eagles have only been a couple of dropped catches here and there from victories in the two games they have lost against the Falcons and the Lions.
But, where there is Rodgers, there is a probability that he will put up at least 300 passing yards and a couple of touchdowns. The same could also be said of Wentz. However, opportunistic a defense might be, there are big opportunities for someone from this game. If the Eagles are able to beat the Packers, it will lift them to 2-2 going into the next part of the season where the shuffle for play-off spots begins.
For the Packers, victory would see them 4-0 keeping them on top of a stacked NFC North; but if they lose this one, they will be sharing a 3-1 record with at least one of their divisional rivals.
The Vikings and Bears with equal 2-1 records face off against each other and the 2-0-1 Lions hope to surprise the Chiefs.
Washington, fresh from a defeat of the Bears on Monday night now must travel to New Jersey to face the newly energized Giants. While nobody is looking at either team to make any dent on the playoff race, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks.
In benching Super Bowl-winning and franchise hero, Eli Manning, for the rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, the Giants looked reinvigorated and optimistic. They took their first win against the Buccaneers on Sunday although it could be argued that it was really just luck.
But the old adage of, ‘he who dares, wins' will see the Giants take to the field believing they can inflict a fourth straight defeat to Washington, whose fanbase shares none of the optimism or energy with those in blue. A lot of this pessimism is directed squarely at the door of Washington head coach, Jay Gruden and starting quarterback Case Keenum. Despite Keenum's half-decent stats, he did throw 5 interceptions against the Bears in his last outing. But Gruden is, for now at least, standing firmly behind Keenum. Whether this is due to stubbornness, a genuine belief in Keenum as a starter, the idea that Haskins isn’t ready, or not wanting to throw in the rookie with the Patriots approaching in week five is anybody’s guess. Gruden is rolling the dice with the franchise staring at 0-4 if things don’t turn around in this game. But, ‘he who dares, wins’ and for Gruden and Keenum, the time to dare and win comes Sunday or else they both might find themselves red-faced sooner rather than later.
Why is there an exception to every rule? Did Tony Soprano die? Who is the best team in Texas? These are just some of life’s little questions made to keep those with futile minds awake at night. There are arguments to be made based on logic then there are arguments to the contrary.
Of these pressing questions, unless they are to meet in a Super Bowl, it’s hard to know which of the 2019 incarnations of the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys have the upper hand this year in Texas. We could compare records where the Cowboys at 3-0 clearly beat the Texans 2-1 record however, a quick scratch beneath the surface reveals that the Cowboys have only had to beat the Giants, Washington, and the woeful Dolphins. The Texans, on the other hand, have victories against Jacksonville and the Chargers. Their only loss came by three points, losing to the Saints who will soon play Dallas this week. This weekend we may discover where the two Texan teams sit against each other. The Cowboys will play the Saints - but it won't be the same Saints that the Texans faced with Drew Brees now missing.
Yes, you can point to the Cowboys wiping out the Texans 34-0 during pre-season but then again it was just pre-season. The last time they played each other in the regular season, last October, the Texans beat their Texas rivals just 19-16 - hardly definitive. A quick look at their quarterback situation shows two athletes clearly in the upper ranks of the league. If you compare Dak Prescott’s 920 yards with Deshaun Watson’s 778 yards, it is futile due to the difference in opposition.
So which of the two teams is the best in Texas? The Texans face the Panthers this weekend and without Cam Newton, they are under the care of Kyle Allen. If they win this one and then win against the Falcons, the playoffs will look attainable for the Texans.
So what does all this mean? Are the Texans and the Cowboys going to meet in the Super Bowl? No, not this year at least. But both look like they are riding an upward curve.
Standing in the Way of Control
Antonio Brown rushed through the New England revolving door in such a blur that he went from touchdown scoring Superman to never playing again Clark Kent. While many had thought of Brown as the final piece in another title-winning season, his removal hasn’t come with the same mass predictions of the Patriots. That is largely due to the Patriots racing their juggernaut to a 3-0 winning record, sweeping all before them away with barely a twitch of a Bill Belichick's eyebrow.
During all of this, the Buffalo Bills were wrestling their way to a 3-0 record of their own in much the same way a boa constrictor would take on a crocodile. It hasn’t always been pretty and at times has looked like desperately hard work. However, much of the offense has come through quarterback, Josh Allen's ability to rush out of a collapsing pocket. Yet, it has been hard not to watch all of this in fascination.
With their three wins coming against the Steelers, the Dolphins, and the Jets, the Patriots now travel to Buffalo for what is the first real test of their well-oiled machine. The Bills will start as the underdog. If they are to come out on top, they must find more ways of advancing down the field besides Josh Allen taking off and running backs, Frank Gore and Devin Singletary, doing all the heavy lifting. Standing in the way of TB12 and his band of receivers though is an impressive looking defensive unit. It will be a tussle at times, though Tom Brady’s crocodile will probably wrestle itself free this time around.
A Race to the Bottom
We all know that the 2019 Miami Dolphins have quite probably scheduled a restructure via the next few drafts.
Quarterback Josh Rosen is an athlete with a point to prove, however. While the Cardinals are still working out the best way to play with no.1 pick from this year's draft, Kyler Murray, Rosen, the forgotten wrapping paper from the Cardinals no.10 pick in 2018 has been written off and discarded. We are in the age of recycling though, and while nobody in their right mind could imagine the Dolphins beating the Chargers this weekend, Rosen still looked impressive in his start on Sunday. He passed for 200 yards, only a few dropped catches from much better stats and he wasn’t intercepted once.
It may still happen that the Dolphins go the entire season without a win, which would constitute a glorious success in its failure. There are other teams who might cast a wistful eye at their plan of scheduled restructure and join them. This weekend will see the only game between two teams with an 0-3 record - the Bengals and the Steelers. You would imagine the Steelers would finally put a win on the board. A Giants win would see Washington share the unenviable 0-4 numbers. In the case that some of the aforementioned manage to win a few games, the Giants could join this race to the bottom of the pile, which would at least make it more fun to watch.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale