Allegany Communications Sports
All in all, a very good week for the fans here in 2 Hours from Everywhere and the three teams in our 2-Hour Drive Conference (2HDC), #NFLTheTVShow version.
The Baltimore Ravens did not play and, thus, did not lose. The Pittsburgh Steelers came off their bye week and brought outside linebacker T.J. Watt with them for a 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints, and the Washington Commanders stood the NFL on its ear on Monday night with an impressive 32-21 win over the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.
The only bad part of the Commanders win is two-fold: A.) it may embolden owner Dan Snyder to believe he’s finally figured it out and to maybe, just maybe, decide to stick around a little longer (nah, the horse – or at least a part of the horse – is already out of the barn on that one) and B.) it made Larry Csonka and all of the other 1972 Miami Dolphins very happy, as they will remain the one and only NFL team in history to finish a season undefeated for at least another year.
One of the many good things about the Commanders win besides their uniforms (I really like the uniforms) is they are now 3-1 with underdog quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who once again, playing in place of injured Carson Wentz, has shown himself to be a capable leader if not an upper-echelon NFL quarterback. Yet, at this point, it’s not important what he isn’t. What matters is what he is, and results are results.
As for the Ravens and their bye, they have had an opportunity to rest, recharge and give so many of their injured players much needed time to heal, most notably tight end Mark Andrews and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Not only that, it gave newly acquired inside linebacker Roquan Smith more time to get comfortable with the Baltimore system, and as we said here last week, the possibilities there are frightening.
The Ravens (6-3), who are in first place in the AFC North, begin what is in theory a favorable stretch of schedule with a Sunday home game with the Carolina Panthers. Hopefully, they will be better prepared coming off a bye week than Maryland was last week at Wisconsin. Geesh …
Not only did the Steelers (3-6) enjoy a great week with their bounce-back win over the Saints, as I guaranteed here last week, they played a critical role in my hitting six out of six games on the parlay card. But fear not, there’s nothing to see here, as the card clearly states “FOR AMUSEMENT ONLY”. Suffice it to say, it provided me with great amusement.
The Steelers have a lot of things going on this season and with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickens learning as he goes along, there have been growing pains, and the most painful of those was the injury to Watt in the season-opener against Cincinnati.
But Watt returned this week as he promised he would from what was initially feared to be a season-ending torn pectoral as well as a lingering knee issue, and he looked like the T.J. Watt who is the difference maker on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While he did not register a sack against the Saints and quarterback Andy Dalton, who has been a sitting duck the past two weeks against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, Watt had a near-sack, four tackles and a quarterback hit. He is a player the opposing offense must be aware of at all times, because he plays with relentless drive, athleticism and emotion that not only make his defensive teammates better, but fuels the Pittsburgh crowd, which is among the loudest in the NFL to begin with.
If the Steelers are to get back into this thing, they’ll need Watt to do it, and they’ll need to continue to dumb down Pickens’ game with a stronger running game until the rookie from nearby Pitt fully grows into the shoes of the job.
The Steelers host the Bengals on Sunday afternoon …
As for the Commanders (5-5), let’s face it, they’re a gritty football team, and they are a good football team. They’re 3-1 under Heinicke a week after nearly beating the 8-1 Minnesota Vikings, who have crept out of more coffins this season than Bela Lugosi.
They have a tough running game and tough outside receivers, as well as a potential monstrous defensive front once Chase Young returns, which is expected to be soon.
Unfortunately, Wentz is also scheduled to return this Sunday in Houston against the Texans. I know what I would do, but head coach Ron Rivera has a decision to make. Does he stick with Heinicke, who has helped revitalize the Washington season, or does he go back to Wentz, a perennial stick in the mud?
Regardless of what he does, you really have to hand it to Rivera. This team was left for dead, they had no quarterback and entirely too much Dan Snyder drama. Yet, perhaps in spite of it all, they have stuck together and really seem to play for each other and for their head coach, whose mother died just two weeks ago.
No telling what’s yet to happen with this soap opera of a franchise, but one given is that Ron Rivera has proven to be exactly what he was said to be when he came to coach this team.
Ron Rivera is a leader.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT