1st Stance: Offense
Washington (1-3) are at the top of the NFC East despite a losing record (technically behind Philadelphia because of the tie game). The offense is bland by NFL standards; going into week 4, QB Dwayne Haskins was one of the lowest graded quarterbacks but he played better last week against a good Baltimore Ravens defense, completing more than 70% of his passes and going for 314 yards. Most of the yardage was after the catch, however, as his average depth of target was less than 5 yards.
Announced on Wednesday, Kyle Allen will be taking over for Haskins and this is likely to play out poorly for Washington. Allen averaged the highest turnover-worthy rate among quarterbacks last year, nearly 1 of every 17 pass attempts could have resulted in a turnover. He threw 16 interceptions and had 13 fumbles in 12 games last year. For a bright spot, rookie Antonio Gibson had a good day with 128 total yards, most of those receiving. Terry McLaurin also had a good day receiving with 118 yards and seems to be the focal point of the offense. This offense is likely to be erratic at best on Sunday and might be best served to go with Alex Smith.
Looking at Haskins vs Kyle Allen, and whether Haskins is worth a chance elsewhere.
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) October 7, 2020
The Rams (3-1) had a headscratcher game on Sunday against the New York Giants. The offense scored touchdowns on their first and last drives of the game. In between those drives, the whole world is wondering what happened. Between the play calling, the running-back-by-committee (that is impossible to figure out and will get more complicated when Cam Akers returns), and the mediocre play of Jared Goff – what did we learn? Without a definitive answer, conspiracy theorists are advocating for the idea that Sean McVay was looking to play tight and conservative in order to not give away anything to game-tape. Despite the ho-hum performance from the offense, Goff is performing admirably when it matters:
Highest-graded QBs on third down:
1. Aaron Rodgers – 92.5
2. Jared Goff – 90.4
3. Justin Herbert – 89.8
4. Tom Brady – 79.1 pic.twitter.com/UprmW5h4UB
— PFF (@PFF) October 7, 2020
Without question, the Rams offense is better than that of the Washington Football Team, but if the play on offense is mediocre to poor for two weeks in a row then there could be cause for concern.
2nd Stance: Defense
Washington’s defense has been good this year at giving the offense a short field. Washington is at the top of the league staring drives in the opponent’s half. The defensive line is talented, but now prone to injury and the formula for success is not working. They have given up 30 or more points every game since their week 1 win.
The Rams have only given up more than 20 points once this season. Last week they gave up field position and field goals, but no touchdowns and stopped a potential game-tying drive at the end of the game. The defense is still working on personnel options and packages, but the options are good instead of critical. Look for Jalen Ramsey to lock down McLaurin like he has other top receivers this season. Speaking of Ramsey – looks like the Rams plan to use his skills in various ways and that makes this defense exciting:
Rams Film Room: How L.A. unleashed Jalen Ramsey in new role vs. Giants https://t.co/jCzseUZeWl
— Rams Wire (@TheRamsWire) October 7, 2020
If the Rams can keep the starting drives for Washington deep in their part of the field, the defense should flourish and come away with turnovers or punts versus scores. Advantage Rams.
3rd Stance: Special Teams
Neither team is especially talented in the kicking game. Washington has Dustin Hopkins, 4 of 6 for field goals (67%) on the season and 7 of 8 on XPAs (87.5%). The Rams have rookie Samuel Sloman, 5 of 7 for field goals (71.4%) on the season and 11 of 12 on XPAs (91.7%). DVOA has Washington in the middle of the pack at 19 and the Rams near to last at 31, so edge to Washington. Look for the Rams to go for it on 4th and short in Washington territory when possible.
4th Stance: Intangibles
For this matchup, there are some storylines that are worth mentioning:
Coaching – Sean McVay versus coach Ron “Riverboat” Rivera. McVay spent a lot of years in the Washington system but can hardly use that to his advantage now that Rivera has come in and is looking to change not only the direction of the team, but also the culture. Both have been to, and lost, a Superbowl as a head coach. They have faced each other once, McVay won that outing and has the edge here.
Trend/Mojo – The stock is down for the Washington Football Team as they have gone 0-3 since winning in week one. The stock on the Rams is back up after a tough win, but they are back on the road in an early game on the East coast. Mojo is with the Rams, but this could be a trap game before they open the division with a game next week against San Francisco.
Key Injuries: As of posting:
- Questionable for Sunday (limited practice on Thursday): Terry McLaurin (WR, thigh), Wes Schwietzer (G, elbow), Dontrelle Inman (WR, foot), Chase Young (DE, groin), Greg Stroman (CB, foot)
- Questionable for Sunday: Steven Sims (WR, toe)
- Injured Reserve – expected return Sunday: Michael Liedtke (G, undisclosed), Reuben Foster (OLB, knee)
- Injured Reserve – expected return week 6: Brandon Scherff (G, knee MCL)
- Injured Reserve – expected return week 7: Bryce Love (RB, knee)
- Injured Reserve: Matthew Ionnidis (DT, biceps), Thaddeus Moss (TE, undisclosed)
- Los Angeles
- Questionable for Sunday (did not practice Thursday): Micah Kiser (MLB, groin), Bobby Evans (T, shoulder)
- Questionable for Sunday (limited practice on Thursday): Troy Hill (CB, ankle), Kenny Young (OLB, knee)
- Non-football injury for Sunday: Terrell Lewis (LB, knee – did not practice Thursday)
- Injured Reserve – expected return week 6: Joe Noteboom (G, calf)
- Injured Reserve: Justin Lawler (LB, foot), Travin Howard (LB, knee – meniscus)
Weather at FedEx field: Cloudy with periods of rain. High 75F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 60%. Rainfall around a tenth of an inch that could make things wet but should not majorly affect the game.
Through 4 weeks, analysis on NFL tiers:
Haskins would have made this game closer; the Rams prevail 30-13 and complete the sweep of the NFC East.
Author’s privilege here – RIP Eddie Van Halen, you will be missed.