If you thought the first month of the latest and greatest NFL season was tough to keep up with, just wait. We knew this would be one of the strangest seasons in recent memory thanks to a global pandemic, but I’d honestly be surprised if anyone expected any team to perform as well as the Seattle Seahawks have, all while perfectly (as far as we know anyway) navigating the waters of needing every single person on the team including players and coaches to avoid testing positive for Covid-19.
The Seahawks are currently 5-0 and get the week off to try and get healthy before playing at least eleven consecutive games without a break the rest of the way. Only by earning homefield advantage will they get a week off between the end of the regular season and the divisional round, and then they would need to win in the divisional and conference championship rounds to get another two weeks off before the Super Bowl.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. This team has most of their season still to go, so we’re not talking Super Bowl—at least not yet.
Last week, Seattle hosted the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football in a rematch of their Monday Night Football thriller from a season ago, and this game exceeded expectations to say the least. Seattle went into the half down 13-0, and the visiting Vikings appeared to have an answer for everything Seattle and Russell Wilson wanted to do. Then if you blinked at any point in the opening minutes of the third quarter, you likely missed a Seattle touchdown as they surged to a 21-13 lead. Minnesota then scored another 13 unanswered points to take a 26-21 lead late in the game. With just two minutes remaining, Minnesota faced 4th and 1 from the Seattle 6 and chose to go for the kill rather than kick a field goal in sloppy conditions. Seattle managed to stop Vikings RB Alexander Mattison (for context, he was filling in for the injured Dalvin Cook and was averaging more than 5 yards per carry to this point in the game) just inches short, and Wilson led the team in a haze of rain down the field while converting two plays on fourth down, with DK Metcalf catching passes on both occasions, the second one proving to be the game winning touchdown.
After an easy win in week one, Seattle has been tested at the end of the game each of the last four weeks, and either their defense has stepped up big time in “must have” moments, or Wilson has led the offense to victory, or in some cases both sides have been crucial to victory – that was certainly the case a week ago. Cemented in the MVP conversation, Wilson now gets a week to rest up before visiting Arizona in week seven.
The Rams travelled to Washington a week ago, and despite their coast-to-coast travel and the time zone change coupled with the early time slot, they still looked like the better team throughout. Washington benched QB Dwayne Haskins ahead of the game, fill-in starter Kyle Allen was injured in the first half, and then Alex Smith took his first NFL snaps in nearly two years.It was not enough to derail the Rams however, who left town with a 30-10 victory. The offense was neither splashy nor was it sloppy, and while this team rarely scores style points any more, they still know how to outscore their opponent, and that’s all you can ask of any team. Their defense has held opponents to 10 or fewer points each of the last two games and may have finally found their groove. They host struggling San Francisco this week, with a chance to erase all but half a game that stands between them and the division lead.
Arizona went on their own east coast road trip last week, playing the Jets in the early time slot. The travel and time didn’t seem to impact the Cardinals, however, as they cruised to their own 30-10 victory. While their opponent lacked playmakers, Arizona didn’t get caught being overconfident, using their offense and defense to win the day and the game, and now faces a good test against Dallas on Monday Night Football.
San Francisco hosted Miami last week, and just about everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. Jimmy Garoppolo threw two interceptions late in the first half and personally helped the visiting Dolphins add to an already intimidating three-score lead. At halftime the score showed 30-7 in favor of Miami, and by the end of the game it was a surprising 43-17 that probably looked closer than the game felt. After benching Garoppolo at halftime, the 49ers did not fare any better with replacement starter CJ Beathard, only scoring 10 points the rest of the way. It was a forgettable return for RB Raheem Mostert, who played well and finished with 90 respectable rushing yards but didn’t get in the end zone. This week the 49ers host the Rams and will look to break their winless streak at home so far in 2020. Just five weeks in, the 49ers already have as many losses as they did in all of 2019, and they still have eleven games remaining and are showing no signs of being on the dominant level they were a year ago.
So what can we expect this week?
Seattle – On Bye
The Seahawks get a well-deserved bye and will rest up before facing Arizona next week. With the defense all kinds of banged up, it will be the perfect time for their secondary, especially safety Jamal Adams, to rest and be ready for the meat of their schedule. While I don’t think they’ve had it easy to say the least, they definitely have some challenging opponents left, not to mention their entire schedule in the division. They’ve proven they belong among the elite teams, but nothing is going to be handed to them, they’ll have to continue to earn it the rest of the way.
Arizona at Dallas – Monday 515pm on ESPN
Standing at 3-2, Arizona has been all over the place – literally. They have played in California, Arizona, Carolina, New Jersey, and soon Dallas. They have the skill players on both sides of the ball to be dangerous, but haven’t truly found their identity yet. Their opponent in week six is also trying to find their path, as they lost star QB Dak Prescott to season ending injury last week, and now turn to fill-in starter Andy Dalton, who was most recently playing in Cincinnati. Dalton is a Texas native but will feel like he’s far from home in a new offense and with players he’s not used to. He did prove to be a quick study learning a new playbook and building rapport with his teammates in his rookie season, but that was nine years ago. He’ll have his work cut out for him, as, even with Dak at QB, Dallas struggled to win and usually had to score in bunches in the second half to be competitive. Dalton was efficient if not forgettable in helping Dallas collect just their second win of the season, and with just a few practices getting rhythm and timing down with the 1st-string offense, we’ll see if this offense can soar like they did in the second half of games with Dak, or if Dallas as we know it is doomed. They do have all-pro running back Ezekiel Elliott though, so don’t be surprised if they go with a run heavy offense. Wait what am I saying, this is still an offense built by Kellen Moore and watched closely by Mike McCarthy – they will throw until someone’s arm falls off. I expect the Cardinals to win this one, and unless Dalton surprises people, I don’t like Dallas’ chances to keep it close. If they can survive this game, the Cardinals will then host Seattle in week seven with a chance to move into second place in the division if they can get some help from the Rams.
Los Angeles at San Francisco – Sunday 520pm on NBC
This Sunday Night, all eyes will be on the Bay as the 49ers play host to the visiting Rams and a good opportunity for both teams to improve their chances at competing for the division crown. The Rams sit at 4-1 and with a win could move to within half a game of Seattle for the division lead. On the other hand, the 49ers sit at 2-3 and need this win to get to .500, as well as prove they can win at home. The once-vaunted San Francisco pass rush is now stuck in neutral, and they are rolling out a questionable passing game that brings back memories of years we’d rather not remember. I don’t know how the 49ers can win this one as they look and perform like they did two years ago when they barely made it to a 4-12 record. They might get to 6-10, but I wouldn’t count on it.
The Rams don’t have a lot of splashy players or plays, but they do a good job of keeping the game balanced by running a lot, and using play action to trick the defense into giving up big plays. QB Jared Goff is efficient, but I think we’re all realizing the kid from Cal with the big arm is more Kyle Boller than Aaron Rodgers. He might end up being something like Alex Smith, and for most kids that would be a great ending, but right now either would be a let down compared to the fanfare he saw upon entering the league. I’ll Venmo someone $2 if they can tell me who will be the Rams’ leading rusher this week, and in order to win you have to tell me how many carries, yards, and touchdowns they will get. The person that is closest to that number wins the big, big, big money. Again, it’s $2, this is more for your bragging rights than for me to risk my wallet. The Rams defense is definitely capable of making the 49ers continue to look average or worse, and even in primetime I don’t expect a quality game here. Look for the Rams to jump out to an early lead, stay calm if the 49ers get a couple of cheap scores, and head in to week seven at 5-1 getting ready to host the Bears on Monday Night Football.