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The 5 O’Clock Club: One week, two important games against the NFC South

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Wild Card Round - Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

The Redskins go to New Orleans on Monday night to face the Saints, who are 3-1 and leading the NFC South, and then come home on Sunday to host the 2-1 Carolina Panthers, who are just a half-game back of the Saints.

This week and these two contests could go a long way towards defining the 2018 Redskins and shaping the season. Win both games, and the Redskins would be 4-1 at the end of the week, and likely in strong control of the NFC East, with two huge wins over two teams that are likely to factor into the playoff seedings.

On the other hand, if the Redskins lose both games, they would fall to 2-3. That would likely drop them to at least 3rd place in the division, and would create terrible tie-breaking scenarios versus the Saints and Panthers for any eventual chase for a wildcard spot.

The Redskins don’t have a division game until Week 7, and these two games against the two leading NFC South teams are very important if the Redskins want to show their fans and the rest of the NFL that they are serious playoff team, and the two games are vitally important to the math of qualifying for a playoff spot later on.

Playing in New Orleans on Monday Night Football

The Saints opened up their season with a shocking loss to Tampa Bay, 48-40. Since then, they have won three straight games against the Browns, Falcons and Giants, with two of those wins coming on the road.

The Saints offense is one of the most potent in the NFL, ranking 3rd in points per game at 34.2 (behind Chiefs and Rams). They will be a tough test for the Redskins’ 2nd ranked defense that has given up just 14.7 points per game against the Cardinals, Colts and Packers. The Cardinals have averaged around 10 ppg in their other three contests, the Colts 24.3, and the Packers 25, so, the Redskins have held each of the three teams to about 3 - 8 points under their ‘norm’.

Applying that to the Saints would mean that the Redskins would still likely have to score more than 30 points to win — something they have so far managed only against the Packers. Of course, scoring on the Saints hasn’t exactly been a challenge this season; their opponents are averaging 30.2 points per game, even as they’ve lost three of those games to New Orleans.

The Saints have a surprisingly balanced offensive attack, ranking 7th in passing yards and 18th in rushing. Against the Redskins, the Saints will see the return of Mark Ingram, who was suspended for the first 3 games of the season. He is likely to be motivated, and to have fresh legs, so the Redskins, who rank 7th against the run, will have to have a good game plan and superior execution to stop Ingram and Kamara, who combined for 1,852 rushing yards in 2017.

Drew Brees, of course, is the future first-ballot Hall of Fame player on this team. He threw 3 TD passes against Tampa Bay, 2 versus Cleveland, and another 3 against the Falcons. He has thrown an average of 40 passes per game, and he can sling the ball when he needs to, airing it out 45 times against the Bucs and 49 times against Atlanta.

Brees is on track to break some huge passing records, and he’s likely to hit at least one milestone against the Redskins. With just over 200 yards of passing offense, Brees will break Peyton Manning’s record of 71,940 career passing yards. Playing at home in front of rabid Saints fans who will be counting down towards the milestone, and likely facing a short stoppage of play to acknowledge it when it happens will probably supercharge the atmosphere in the Superdome on Monday Night. This won’t just be a physical contest, but a mental and emotional challenge as well, as the Redskins are likely to face a team and fan base that will be amped to see their superstar quarterback look like the Hall of Famer he is likely to become in front of a prime time television audience. The Redskins are going to have to take control of the game early and get a 2-score lead to de-energize the crowd or it could be an ugly night for Washington and its fans.

Carolina Panthers on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at FedEx Field

There’s no rest for the weary. Following the bye week and the Monday night contest, the Redskins will come home to get ready for the Panthers on a short week. This game, in addition to being a home game, looks slightly less daunting on paper, but will still provide another tough challenge for the good guys this week.

The Panthers are the other team that had a Week 4 bye, so they currently have the same record as the ‘Skins, 2-1. The Panthers lost on the road to the Falcons, and picked up home wins against the Cowboys and Bengals.

Carolina ranks 18th in total offense, 16th in points per game, and 11th in time of possession. Their offensive attack, at least on paper, isn’t balanced at all; the Panthers rank 1st in rushing and 25th in passing.

Again, on paper, this should provide a pretty good matchup for the Redskins, who are 7th in rushing yards allowed, 2nd in passing defense, 3rd in total yards allowed, 2nd in points allowed, and 3rd in offensive time of possession.

As might be expected from three teams with winning records, the ‘Skins, Saints and Panthers have all dominated time of possession this season, with the Redskins the best of the three and ranked 3rd in the NFL at 33:31. The winner of each game may be the one who can win that ToP battle again.

So far, Carolina has managed that partly through a positive turnover margin — they are +4 through 4 weeks. This is where Alex Smith’s conservative nature may be a real benefit. He’s thrown just one interception so far this season, and that appeared to be the fault of Jordan Reed, who either quit on a route or got beaten badly by his defender. Fumbles may provide a bit more opportunity for the opportunistic Carolina defense, as Smith has put the ball on the ground several times this season without actually losing possession to the defense. Adrian Peterson, of course, had the memorable strip at the end of his long run in his first regular season game as a Redskin, and Jordan Reed lost a ball against the Colts that pretty much ended any hope of a Redskins rally.

The Panthers are averaging 11 points per game less than the Saints, so it’s likely that the Redskins won’t have to put up a “track meet” score to win at home against Carolina, but the Redskins will have to play very good football to come away with the win.

Penalties may also factor in, as the Panthers are averaging only 48 penalty yards per game, while the Redskins have been a bit sloppy at times and have been penalized to the tune of 73 yards per game. Between penalties and turnovers, the Panthers could steal a possession or two, which could make the difference in what looks to be a close contest between two good teams.

The schedules for our NFC East rivals

This is a big weekend for NFC East Football, with a Sunday lineup that features the Giants at 1:00, Eagles at 4:25, Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, and then the Redskins playing Monday night.

The fun continues with a divisional game between the Eagles and Giants on Thursday night. I imagine that the network execs thought they were signing up to broadcast a high-stakes game to decide the early-season divisional lead. Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s games, they might, instead, be broadcasting a game between two teams with a combined record of 3-7 fighting each other to stay out of last place in the NFC East.

Of course, if the Redskins lose to the Saints while the Eagles and Giants win on Sunday, the Giants could be playing on Thursday night for a 3-3 record and a shot at 1st place, or the Eagles could go to 4-2 with a win over the Giants putting themselves back in control of the division. It seems crazy, but this early in the season, almost anything is possible.



  • 7 Oct 4:25 pm Vikings (1-2-1)
  • 11 Oct 8:20 pm Giants (1-3)


  • 7 Oct 1:00 pm Panthers (2-1)
  • 11 Oct 8:20 pm Eagles (2-2)


At the end of Week 6, which team will be in first place in the NFC East?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    (161 votes)
  • 0%
    (2 votes)
  • 27%
    (63 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now


Predict the Redskins result for the coming two games against the Saints and Panthers:

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    (13 votes)
  • 65%
    (150 votes)
  • 29%
    (67 votes)
230 votes total Vote Now