The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week 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.
I’m not expecting much in the way of wins from Ron Rivera’s group this season. I’m officially on record as predicting a 5-11 season. For months, though, I was predicting 4-12.
What changed was the number of injuries that have plagued the Eagles in the leadup to Week 1 (they’ve lost G Brandon Brooks and T Andre Dillard completely, and it looks like they could be without Javon Hargrave and Alshon Jeffrey this week), combined with my optimistic thought that the Washington offense could surprise Week 1 because it will be brand new. I think the burgundy & gold have a puncher’s chance of walking away with the win.
I’m encouraged, in part, by the fact that Jay Gruden’s squad was up big and Eagles fans were committing suicide by halftime a year ago before the good guys suffered an epic collapse in the latter stages of the game that marked the beginning of the end of the Gruden era.
I think Ron Rivera’s guys will be made of sterner stuff.
Last year’s team knew that they were playing under the coach on the hottest seat in the NFL; they were in their 6th year of Club Jay. They were soft.
This year’s group is likely to be among the better prepared groups in the NFL.
Sure, Ron Rivera is new to Washington, but he’s not new to head coaching. This marks his tenth season at the helm of an NFL franchise, and there should be no doubt at this point that it’s Ron’s way or the highway. He has unquestioned control of the football side of the franchise, and everyone on the roster who doesn’t plan to retire at the end of the season is playing for a roster spot on the 2021 team. I’m expecting Rivera’s team to show up in better shape, fully prepared to take on the opposition, and to play for 60 minutes instead of just 30 or 40 minutes per week.
The Washington defensive front should have the ability to give a dinged up and aging Eagles offensive line (Jason Peters is 38; Matt Pryor has 142 career offensive snaps; Lane Johnson was limited in practice this week) real problems for four quarters of football, making Carson Wentz perfectly miserable all afternoon.
If Scott Turner has a few offensive tricks up his sleeve, the Football Team could walk out of FedEx Sunday night with a 1-0-0 record both overall and in the division, while the Philadelphia Eagles take a long bus ride home wondering what went wrong.
While I’m not expecting a great season — or even a very good one — I’m picking a young Ron Rivera-inspired team to shock the NFL by picking up the W at home against the defending division champs this Sunday.
Of course, there are two other teams in the division.
The Cowboys are on the road against a tough and hungry LA Rams team that will be christening the brand new SoFi stadium in prime time on Sunday night. They’re gonna be fired up! I’m saying that Sean McVay’s boys beat the snot out of a soft Mike McCarthy team that will arrive having read too many super-bowl predicting headlines. The Cowboys were a mediocre overhyped team coached by Jason Garrett a year ago, but things have changed. Now, they’re a mediocre, overhyped team coached by former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, best known for alienating his future HoF quarterback and slipping off for massages in his office during team meetings and practices. McCarthy is the anti-Rivera — a coach who doesn’t command respect from his players, who isn’t hungry for anything but fast food, and who went to a bad franchise thinking it was a great one, and who has capitulated completely to a bad owner. I think the Cowboys will win the division in a weak NFC East in 2020, but they will come out of LA late Sunday 0-1-0 and licking their wounds after an embarrassing prime time loss.
Prediction: Rams 31 Cowboys 24.
Speaking of embarrassing prime time losses, the Giants drew the short straw by hosting the Steelers in the first game of the traditional opening week Monday Night Football double-header. The Steelers had a bad year last year, but Big Ben is healthy and slimmed down; the team is loaded and ready to start another successful playoff campaign where the Giants will just be minor bump in the road. I’m predicting a blowout here, with people watching the 2nd half only because there’s another game on when the bloodletting ends.
Prediction: Steelers 39 Giants 23
That leaves our beloved Washington Football Team all alone at the top of the division, with the GIants and Cowboys tied for 2nd place and the Eagles wallowing at the bottom by virtue of having the only division loss.
This feels like the longest and least enjoyable off-season of my life. I’m ready to put it out of its misery with an enjoyable and unexpected victory against the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
I’m predicting a shocking result and an encouraging start to the RivEra.
Final score prediction: