We are a quarter of the way through the 2018 NFL season. With the second quarter of the year about to begin, we have learned quite a bit.
We learned that the Los Angeles Rams are the best team in football right now. If you watched their week four game against Minnesota, you saw how potent their offense is.
Quarterback Jared Goff has shown this season why he was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, throwing for 1,406 yards and 11 touchdowns in only four games. Couple that with the explosive Todd Gurley, and the Rams have the leagues number one offense.
We also learned that Cincinnati may be for real. They played a barn-burner against Atlanta last week, winning 37-36 after Andy Dalton found A.J. Green in the end zone with seven seconds left. The Bengals are 3-1 and lead the AFC North.
Lastly, we learned that Pittsburgh is in serious trouble. Without running back Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers have started the season off 1-2-1 and were thumped by Baltimore last Sunday night. Bell has announced he’ll return after week 7 of the season, but we’ll see about that.
With that said, let’s take a look at the key games in the NFL this coming weekend.
Atlanta at Pittsburgh: 1 PM
This game pits to of the leagues most underwhelming teams against each other. Both teams rosters are in shambles but for different reasons. Atlanta has dealt with a plethora of injuries (I heard on ESPN radio that their team was basically a M.A.S.H. unit) on the defensive side of the ball.
For Pittsburgh, it’s been internal turmoil. From the Le’Veon Bell drama to the defense being more porous than a pasta strainer (they allow 420 yards a game, good for 28th in the NFL), the Steelers have been slipping.
Expect plenty of points though as the one thing both of these teams can do is score, especially if Ben Roethlisberger is firing on all cylinders for Pittsburgh, then this should be a shootout between he and Matt Ryan.
Baltimore at Cleveland: 1 PM
The intrigue here lies with the fact that Baker Mayfield will play against an elite defense. He threw for nearly 300 yards and spotted 42 points against Oakland last week, but Baltimore is a totally different animal. The Ravens look the the Ravens from 2012, ranking fourth in total defense.
Baltimore needs a win to keep pace with Cincinnati in the AFC North, especially since they lost to the Bengals in week two. For Cleveland, it’s a chance to show the franchise has taken the next step and elevated from the NFL’s cellar.
Minnesota at Philadelphia: 4:25 PM
A rematch of last seasons NFC Championship game, but it looks a little different. Both teams enter this contest coming off losses and have struggled throughout the season.
After a tight win over Atlanta to open the season, the Eagles have looked far more vulnerable than preseason projections anticipated. Philly lost week two to the Bucs and then squeaked out a close win in week three against the Colts. However, a loss last week to Tennessee, a game in which they had the lead late in the fourth quarter, leaves them reeling.
Minnesota may be in worse shape. They haven’t won a game since week one and their defense has slipped to 19th in the league after being a top-five defense in 2017.
A win for either team could right the ship for the remainder of the year, while a lose will bury them in the deep NFC.
Dallas at Houston: 8:20 PM
Both teams got much needed wins last week to stay above water. Dallas and Houston both won off field goals at the end of their respective games, and this Sunday nights game is incredibly important for both teams.
For Dallas, this is their chance to shake off their early season woes and get back in the NFC East race. On Houston’s end, it may be more important to pick up a win. A loss would put them three games back of Jacksonville and Tennessee in the AFC South and have already dropped a game to the Titans.
Quarterback play will be all the focus as Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson will need to continue to prove they can lead a franchise.