Redskins and Dolphins - a sore sight to see
Washington will go into this one with their offensive line coach of last week, Bill Callahan, after firing Jay Gruden right after hitting 0-5 for the year. Washington still plans on being patient with their rookie quarterback and their first-round draft pick, Dwayne Haskins. This could mean any of the following: they don’t trust him, they regret the pick, or they are genuinely keeping him out of harm’s way until he can become their main man. Either way, the indecisiveness is indicative of the whole Redskins organization at the moment.
They have stumbled around disappointment since their glory days but then again, so have their Sunday opponents.
The Dolphins are putrid to watch this year. Although, finishing bottom of the pile comes with its rewards and Miami clearly wants to get themselves that number 1 draft pick in April.
And the neutrals won’t be the only ones wanting a win for the ‘Fins. Those fighting for their playing careers and contracts will put pride before any fall. But then so will Washington. It won’t be pretty but it’s the Dolphins vs. the rest of the world and the rest of the world want to see Miami win.
Best in the West
San Francisco soars into this week after handing the Browns a thrashing on Monday night. The 49ers have, in the opening five weeks of the season, have gone from many people’s NFC West "also-rans" to dark horses and have still not lost a game.
And this is a divisional rivalry that looks set to run and run with both teams having similar strengths on both sides. Perhaps that is no surprise with 49ers head coach, Kyle Shanahan having previously employed Rams head coach, McVay as offensive coordinator while both were at Atlanta. After McVay led the Rams to the Super Bowl on a wave of creative offense last season, Shanahan is doing the same this year in San Francisco. Both teams boast huge talents on the defensive side. Rams’ Aaron Donald is amongst the league’s best and rookie Nick Bosa has been proving himself to the Niners after being chosen first in the draft.
While some things are working for San Francisco, many are not for Los Angeles this year. The Rams are giving up too many points and unless they can change this, the 49ers could move into the spotlight.
Only Nostradamus could have predicted that both the Chargers and the Steelers would have losing records coming into the sixth week of the season. Even if you saw the 2-3 record of the Chargers coming - and admit it you didn’t - you wouldn’t have thought the Steelers would be 1-4 at this stage. They haven’t recorded a losing season since 2003.
While the Steelers can point to key-player injuries for their woes, such as quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, the Chargers have merely lost their spark. Their latest loss to Denver exemplified everything going wrong for them this season. The Chargers offense is average, ranking 13th in the league, and if it wasn’t for this better-than-average running game, that rank would be a lot worse. Veteran franchise quarterback, Philip Rivers is having trouble finding his receivers which resulted in one of the worst games in his career last Sunday.
Defensively, they are at a similar level, distinctly average at times and, to compound it all, they are playing in a soccer stadium where home fans are regularly outnumbered by opposing ones.
The Steelers will be playing at the same stadium this weekend and are now down to their third-choice starting quarterback after Mason Rudolph was knocked out on the weekend. The Steelers will be looking to win against the odds, battling adversity and gritting their teeth in true Pittsburgh style.
The Chargers are still looking for their breakout game of the season.
Cowboys on the rebound
The Jets have been poor this season - though they could point to some misfortune, like losing their starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, to mononucleosis in recent weeks. Dallas, on the other hand, has done well, despite defeat by Green Bay.
Come Sunday afternoon, both teams have a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again. Darnold is likely to take the field again, though the Jets are still without a win this season. The offense assembled around Darnold in the offseason now must get to work as it has been only Le’Veon Bell proving himself so far.
The Cowboys are looking to prove last week’s defeat as just a blip on the road to the playoffs. They have a test against the Eagles coming up after this game and getting back to their original form will set them up nicely for that. The Jets are likely to find themselves at the wrong end of a Cowboys rebound as Dallas warm-up for Philadelphia.
Whatever happens, the returning Darnold has already won.
Rested Lions chase the pack
Who is going to stop the Packers from taking the NFC North this year? The Vikings have looked inconsistent - playing well at home yet distinctly worse on the road. The Bears, who have a bye this week, after spilling their pints all over the Raiders in London, are not moving the ball on offense. The Detroit Lions, however, are coming back to life, hoping to put a dent in Green Bay’s divisional aspirations.
The omens are good for the Lions who haven’t tasted defeat against the Packers since New Year’s Day in 2017. With a week to rest and get themselves in shape for this game in Green Bay, the Lions offensive power (which has seen them go 2-1-1 in their 4 games) will test the Packers, who have improved in the defensive this year.
This one looks set to go to the wire and likely end up a one-score game. The Lions have already come within moments of beating the Chiefs this year while beating the Eagles in another. The smart money would go on Aaron Rodgers coming through another test with his Green Bay offense squeezing past the Lions. The Lions, however, have started making smart bets look foolish.
At the start of the season, this very column predicted that the Lions would have a say in this division. Perhaps that conversation will happen on Monday night.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale