The Washington Football team travels to Glendale, Arizona to take on the Cardinals this Sunday at 4:05 PM.
Both teams are coming off of big divisional upset wins. Down 17-0, Washington stormed back in the second half to snatch a win over the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-17. Meanwhile, the other team in red came back from an early 10-0 deficit to outlast the San Francisco 49ers, 24-20.
Depending on where you look, the betting odds have the Cardinals anywhere from a six-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half point favorite.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Limiting Deandre Hopkins
Over the off-season the Cardinals shipped their hobbled star running back, David Johnson as well as a second round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick in exchange for star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Kyler Murray now has a shiny new toy to play with, as Hopkins is one of the elite players and arguably the best WR in the league. The star wideout immediately showed how comfortable he is with his new QB. He caught a career-high 14 receptions for 151 yards in Week 1 against the 49ers secondary, albeit most of it was not opposite Richard Sherman.
Washington comes into 2020 with a revamped secondary. There were a lot of questions surrounding whether or not the additions of Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby would improve the already-weak secondary from 2019. Darby had a bit of a rough day, as he was burned by rookie wideout Jalen Reagor for a 55-yard reception and also had an interception slip through his hands in Week 1. Fuller was a late inactive, so we’ve yet to see the two of them play together. However, Jimmy Moreland filled in nicely for the injured Darby, finishing the day with an interception and five tackles. Slot corner Fabian Moreau also notched an interception and finished as PFF’s number-one rated corner from the weekend.
After a rough start, Washington’s secondary exceeded expectations. However, that was going up against an injury-riddled Eagles offense. The Cardinals are healthy and Hopkins is a completely different beast. Big advantage, Cardinals.
- Containing Kyler Murray
Kyler Murray is coming off a game in which he ran for 91 yards on the ground while also rushing for a touchdown. Washington swallowed up Carson Wentz this past Sunday with a ferocious pass rush that tallied eight sacks, but they’ll have to be careful not to over-pursue this upcoming Sunday. Unlike Wentz, Murray is able to turn the corner and make you pay for your mistakes. It’ll be up to the trio of former first-round defensive ends Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Ryan Kerrigan to contain the edge and keep Murray honest. Look for Washington to deploy a QB spy. If they are able to do so, it’ll limit Arizona’s offense tremendously.
On one side of the line, the rookie Young will line up opposite Cardinals LT D.J Humphries, assuming Humphries is well enough to play. The six-year veteran has struggled with a knee injury in the past and seemed to have tweaked it again in Week 1. To me, this is one of the biggest mismatches of the game. A hobbled LT versus a rookie pass rush phenom? Sign me up.
On the other side of the line, Montez Sweat will line up across RT Kelvin Beachum. Beachum is now on his fourth NFL roster after being drafted by the Steelers in 2015. He has been a serviceable-to-slightly-above-average lineman in his career. Sweat, on the other hand, has the designation of being a high-end first-round pick from 2019. After having somewhat of a quiet rookie season, Sweat started off his sophomore campaign by tallying two tackles and one sack in Week 1. In my eyes, this is close to an even matchup, as Beachum has the experience while Sweat has the potential but is still looking to put it together. Slight — and it’s very close — advantage, WFT.
- Establish the ground game
Washington surprisingly cut Adrian Peterson just a few days before the season started. Most pundits tabbed rookie RB Antonio Gibson as the new lead back; however, veteran Peyton Barber had 17 carries to Gibson’s nine. Barber only ran for 29 yards, which equates to a measly 1.7 yards per carry. Albeit, he did score two goal line touchdowns. Gibson didn’t do too much better, as a 20-yard run really skewed his stats. Without that run, he finishes with eight carries for 16 yards. Look for Washington to try to get Gibson more involved in the run game this Sunday. It’ll be important to take some of the pressure off of Haskins. Establishing the run early will loosen up the secondary.
The Cardinals run defense ranks right in the middle of the league after Week 1, allowing 123 yards on the ground to the 49ers — which, if you think about it, really isn’t as bad as it sounds, considering San Francisco was the top-ranked rushing team in 2019. Either way, this is an opportunity for Washington to try to get the ground game moving. Look for Washington to attack up the middle in the run game, as that’s been the Cardinals weakness. With that being said, Washington’s backfield is unproven. I need to see wait and see more of Gibson. Moderate advantage, Cardinals.
- Mistake-free football from Dwayne Haskins
When you have a suffocating defense that doesn’t allow many points, the last thing you want is your offense turning the ball back over to the other team. That’s exactly what Haskins didn’t do in Week 1, and that played a huge role in the comeback victory. The offense was, quite frankly, boring to watch for most of the game. Dwayne Haskins threw for 178 yards and one score. However, he protected the football and played mistake-free. Timely throws, along with a supposedly fiery speech given at the half, helped Haskins lead Washington to a win. He’ll look to, once again, play mistake-free football
The Cardinals had no takeaways in their Week 1 matchup. They finished 2019 with a league-worst seven interceptions; Arizona added Isaiah Simmons, star hybrid defender out of Clemson, with the eighth-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, in hopes that he would change that. However, Simmons looked lost in his rookie debut and finished with a PFF ranking of 27.1, as he continuously looked out of place. Haskins looked more poised against the Eagles than he did in his rookie season. Slight advantage, WFT.
I expect Washington’s defensive front to perform at a high level, finishing the day with a few sacks and limiting kyler Murray to about 35 rushing yards. However, I expect Murray to get the ball out of his hands quickly, connecting enough times to his sure-handed stud, DeAndre Hopkins.
Look for Antonio Gibson to out-carry Peyton Barber this week, and for Dwayne Haskins to finish with about 170 yards, one score, and a turnover. I am still not sold on Haskins, and it’s a fair question to ask, in regards to how far the defense can carry this team on their back.
I expect this to be a low-scoring game, with the Arizona Cardinals edging out the Washington Football Team, 24-13.
(Featured Image Credit: Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr. / WashingtonFootball.com)