NFL fans are treated this week to a matchup of East Coast Teams as the undefeated New England Patriots travel south to take on the Washington Redskins. Since the AFL/NFL merger, these team have rarely faced each other and Sunday’s game will be only the 11th time these teams have met. The Redskins do have the all-time series lead having won 6 of the previous 10 lifetime meetings. However, in more recent times, the Patriots have won the last three meetings with a combine score of 113-44.
The Redskins (0-4) enter this game looking to get their first win of the 2019 campaign. After two competitive games against the Eagles and Cowboys, Washington has been blown out in back to back weeks. The latest travesty was last week’s loss to the division rival Giants where Washington’s 1st Round rookie quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, made his NFL debut replacing an ineffective Case Keenum. Haskins promptly went on to have an abysmal day against a weak Giants defense and ended his afternoon 9 for 17, 107 yards, and 3 Interceptions…..Ouch.
The Patriots (4-0) enter this game riding high after putting their division rival Buffalo Bills into their place with a 16-10 win in Week 4. While the Bills certainly gave New England’s Tom Brady all that he could handle, the Patriots did what great teams do and found a way to win and secured their rightful spot at the top of the AFC East.
New England is hoping to keep pace with the AFC unbeatens (aka Kansas City) so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: New England’s Tom Brady certainly deserved his share of criticism during last Sunday’s game against the Bills. Certainly, he looked “42 years old” and not “42 years young”. However, the Patriots QB situation with an aging Brady is lightyears better than the hot mess brewing in DC. Early reports coming out of Washington is that the Redskins may start Colt McCoy over Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: There is no doubt that Redskins RB Adrian Peterson will be a 1st Ballot Hall of Famer both at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Abusive Father Hall of Fame. His performance to date on the field has not been very good generating only 90 yards this season with a paltry 2.7 yards per carry. Washington’s biggest backfield threat has been RB Chris Thompson who is 2nd on the Redskins in receiving yards. The Patriots’ running backs, led by 2nd year player Sony Michel, have not fared that much better on the ground but the collection of running backs utilized by New England are producing more yards from scrimmage, both running and receiving, than their Redskins counterparts.
Wide Receivers – PATRIOTS: WR Terry McLaurin has quietly been a bright spot for the Redskins and is on pace for a 1,000-yard receiving season…. assuming, of course, that Washington can find a QB that can throw his way. For the Patriots, the three headed monster of Edelman, Gordon, and Dorsett have had a better than expected start to the season and provide the Patriots with three viable pass options.
Tight Ends – PUSH: The return of Ben Watson should provide an offensive boost for the Patriots from the Tight End position which has been almost invisible this year.
Offensive Line – PATRIOTS: With the injuries and inconsistent play from the Patriots offensive line it’s hard to give them the edge until one looks at the performance of the Redskins’ line which has been awful.
Defensive Front Seven – PATRIOTS: New England’s front seven certainly does not have many household names that the casual fan would recognize. However, through the first 4 weeks of the season, the Patriots are ranked #2 against the run and 1st in Sacks. Washington, on the other hand, is struggling stopping opposing running games (28th in the NFL) and getting to opposing passers (#25 in Sacks).
Secondary – PATRIOTS: Currently, the Patriots secondary is leading the NFL in interceptions, lowest completion percentage, and allowing the lowest opposing QB rating….and, with most of these categories, it’s by a wide margin.
Special Teams – PATRIOTS: While it’s true that Stephen Gostkowski is clearly struggling, the balance of the special teams unit, led by Matthew Slater, has been playing excellent all around.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: There are coaches on the hotseat and then there is Redskins coach Jay Gruden. From the outside, you really can’t be in a worse position: Horrible owner…Terrible GM…questionable roster. Each week the calls for Gruden’s job keep growing and it seems, by the look of him on the sideline, he can’t wait to get fired. A little different story with the Patriots Bill Belichick though. In his 20th season with the Patriots, he is fielding one of the better statistical defenses he has had during his time in New England, has his team in their rightful 1st place spot in the division, and is well on his way to another playoff run.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
BETTING LINE: PATRIOTS -15 ½
Keys to a Patriots Victory:
1) Establish the Running Game: While it’s true that the Patriots offensive has struggled with injuries, New England needs to focus on getting their running game back on track when facing on of the worst run defending teams in the NFL.
2) Beware of the Trap Game: Coming off a tough division game on the road and with a short week looming ahead, New England needs to stay focused and not take the Redskins for granted.
3) Find Some Rhythm in the Passing Game: Tight Man to Man coverage and constant pressure certainly rattled the Patriots Offense in Week 4. New England needs to improve on their ability to pass the ball and work on getting Ben Watson involved into the offense.
On paper this is the biggest mismatch the Patriots have faced since their Week 2 matchup against the perpetually rebuilding Miami Dolphins. While it may be easy for the Patriots to think that this game will be a walk in the park, especially with the disaster Washington has going on at quarterback, New England can’t take this winless team for granted and needs to take care of business.
Look for a slow-paced game to start with New England pulling away in the 2nd Half.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Redskins 12