5 Things We Learned from Sunday

By: Madeleine Hudak (Twitter: @MaddyHudak_94)

Houston, We May Have Resolved the Problem

Apparently thanks to J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans finally showed up to the 2020 NFL season. Romeo Crennel, somehow, vaulted Houston to their first victory of the season in their 30-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. I said this before, and the Texans proved me wrong; in these situations, teams will either step up and play lights-out for their new leader, or will easily fall to the deafening consensus of defeat. Houston decided on door number one, and while the win wasn’t exactly against the NFL’s most feared, they still won when they truly had no reason to want to play at all.

0-4 is an incredibly difficult hole to come out of, particularly when you’re not in the NFC East. This daunting reality means apparently nothing to the newly enlivened Texans who threw the ball downfield, went for it on 4th and 4, and Watson threw for more than 300 yards for the first time in the regular season since Week 7 of 2019. Despite only targeting WR Brandin Cooks three times in their previous loss, Watson targeted Cooks 12 times today; Cooks had his best career game as a Texan with eight catches for 161 yards and a touchdown.

It may have come against an embarrassing showout by Jacksonville, but Houston fans have reason to cheer on Sundays again. A change in leadership is more often than not a catalyst for team improvement. I wouldn’t bank too much on a Cinderella playoff berth, but the Texans made it clear Sunday that they’re not playing for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft the remainder of the season.

The 49ers Injuries Are Officially Insurmountable

“San Francisco 49ers: check,” Ryan Fitzpatrick smirks as he crosses the team off on his kill-list. But in all seriousness, the 49ers needed a win today to instill any hopes in a late-season run. They decidedly did not rise to the challenge. San Francisco’s injuries have been fastidiously detailed this season in discussions surrounding performance; this was an easy win, and one they really needed to persevere through their imminent second quarter stretch.

Their 43-17 loss to Miami was frankly embarrassing, to the point that my roommate, an undying fan of the team, went upstairs and laid in bed for the final quarter. The Dolphins looked like they were throwing against a high school secondary, San Francisco’s offense was rushed, the pass rush completely evaporated, and Jimmy Garoppolo had such an awful showing that he was benched in favor of third string C.J. Beathard.

Garoppolo was likely not 100%, and his chemistry with receivers, who similarly hadn’t seen much playing time recently, was nonexistent; he never showed signs of unwavering leadership and his pitiful offensive line certainly didn’t help give him any footing. More odd was their abandonment of the running game to try to run up the score, but the problem is, their offensive line is just awful. And it’s not a unit that can be explained away by injury. Much like the ugly loss to Philadelphia, Miami’s blitzers and pass-rushers overall had a field day with Garoppolo and Beathard. 

The 49ers now face upcoming matchups that include the Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Buffalo Bills. All of these teams are three tiers above Miami and Philadelphia. Unless the entire IR list has been a season-long prank, I just don’t see how the 49ers have a shot at even the seventh spot this year in the playoffs. Injuries, at a point, become simply insurmountable. The 2020 49ers are the exemplary case.

The Tennessee Titans Are Quickly Destroying the 2020 NFL Season

While the controversy over the unauthorized practice continues, the ensuing Week 5 scheduling changes as a result of the Titans COVID outbreak point to an imminent scheduling car crash:

I’m not even sure where to start deciphering this. This is the grand NFL plan? The scheduling changes legitimately are a disaster with zero contingency plan. Praytell, what happens when this inevitably occurs again? They’ll have run out of bye weeks, players are unable to adequately prepare for matchups, and every word written past this is just griping over the NFL’s refusal to implement a Week 18. 

Team culpability aside, there is just no contingency plan and it’s blatantly apparent. The Broncos saw their bye week initially scheduled this week get pushed to Week 8, New England’s moved forward a week to this week, the Chargers from Week 10 to Week 6, the Dolphins from Week 10 to Week 6, the Jaguars from Week 7 to Week 8, and the Jets from Week 11 to Week 10. This is incredibly unfair to the teams in particular that were forced to push their bye week’s forward unexpectedly; late bye weeks are often revered for late season runs due to unavoidable injury. Think about the Dolphins planning for Week 10. They now suddenly get their only week off?

Irrespective of whether the Titans caused this avalanche with egregious conduct, the NFL is flat out failing with a capital F when it comes to handling COVID outbreaks. We’re quickly approaching a season postponement unless contingency weeks are immediately implemented.

The Cowboys Don’t Deserve Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott has endured a franchise-worst defensive span in the Cowboys 1-3 start, all the while having a history season breaking the record for most passing yards thrown in the first four games of the season. All the while not under contract, as he’s currently riding out the franchise tag. 

Le’Veon Bell was seen as a petulant diva, for the most part. Then Earl Thomas went down with a broken leg on an expiring contract midseason, promptly flipped off the entire organization, and the moment gave pause to the contract holdout dilemma. Dak Prescott’s tragic injury where he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that required immediate surgery only tips the scales further on the argument. 

While he previously had never missed a game in his career, Dak’s future is now incredibly uncertain. The Cowboys – read, Jerry Jones – now have a firsthand look at a team without Prescott at quarterback. Jones didn’t want to reward Dak’s play nor potential, and as a result, he might have just lost him. If I’m Dak Prescott, I take a quick look around me at the monstrous contracts of Elliott and Cooper, realize a sufficient contract deal would only plummet the team further into salary-cap hell, take one last look at the abominable defense, realize that the team has no true general manager, and I get out of dodge immediately. Prescott will receive hefty offers this offseason; barring any freak lingering injuries, Prescott’s successful procedure bodes well for his future past this season, and his future should decidedly be elsewhere than the now 2-3 hapless Dallas Cowboys.

Alex Smith’s Unprecedented Comeback Is the Peak of the 2020 NFL Season

Six hundred and ninety three days, 17 surgeries, a life-threatening infection, and nearly the loss of his leg. In spite of this series of unfathomable events, Alex Smith persevered. Irrespective of any snap he ever takes again, even if he is the worst player the NFL has ever seen moving forward, Alex Smith capped off the most incredible comeback story of all time when he took the field this Sunday.  

Though his return overshadowed any commentary on his gameplay, he ultimately didn’t make much difference for Washington in their 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Truly, none of it matters. This season has been dark, perpetually hovered over by a black cloud that’s seen devastating injury, COVID outbreaks, eerily vacant stadium seats, and just an all-around morose feeling. The moment Smith stepped onto an NFL field again briefly transcended this atmosphere entirely; it’s likely the happiest we’ll feel all season, personal Super Bowl aspirations or not.

With rumors surrounding Dwayne Haskins’ drive, or lack thereof, compounded by Smith’s apparent hours-early presence at practices this week, Smith actually has a chance to be an NFL starting quarterback again. Barring any issues with Smith’s health, it’s hard to see Haskins regaining the role in the near future. Sometimes, you just cheer someone on, and if your team lost in a gruesome fashion today, look no further than Alex Smith as a source of happiness, no matter how brief.

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