By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In this weekly installment of amazingness, we usually highlight four things to watch for in the upcoming Patriots game. Finding four aspects to highlight from this weekend’s game is proving to be rather difficult.
That’s because the Patriots play the abysmal Washington Redskins. At least when the Patriots paid their visit to the lowly Dolphins in Week 2, there was a storyline revolving around some sort of All Pro receiver the team had just signed, which created quite the stir. This week? Hey, Ben Watson is back!
The Redskins stink. They stink on offense. They stink on defense. They have three quarterbacks, and they each stink. Their head coach may be fired before halftime, because he stinks.
After a one-week stint as a single-digit favorite, the Pats are 16-point favorites against Washington. (Because, as we may have pointed out, the Redskins stink.) They should cover that by their third or fourth possession.
So what the heck are we watching for on Sunday? Watch for more dominance by the New England defense.
It’s Going To Get Silly On Defense
The Patriots had four interceptions last weekend against the Bills, and are up to 10 on the season. They may double that number by the end of the day on Sunday.
They’re also hitting quarterbacks like crazy, with 18 sacks on the season. They’re bringing down the quarterback on 11.84 percent of passing plays, which is second in the NFL behind just the Carolina Panthers (12.77 percent).
And all of those percentages should go up no matter which quarterback the Patriots see on Sunday.
Who Will Be Washington’s Crappy QB This Weekend?
Bill Belichick said they’re preparing for all three and that all three are very good — and he did so with a straight face. Who says Bill isn’t a funny guy?
Case Keenum started the season somewhat decently, throwing for 601 yards and five touchdowns over the first two weeks. He’s been picked off four times over the last two weeks, including a three-pick game against Chicago in Week 3, when he was also sacked four times. He only threw one pick against the Giants last week, because he found his fanny on the bench midway through the second quarter after just 11 pass attempts.
In stepped rookie Dwayne Haskins, who managed not to throw an interception on his first two possessions. Then he threw a pick-six. He was then sacked on third-and-10 on Washington’s next possession, forcing the Redskins to punt away. He threw another pick the following possession, and finished his day by throwing yet another interception. He threw the ball 17 times, and three of them were caught by the other team. That other team was the Giants, who entered the week with a grand total of two interceptions.
Jay Gruden kept the Patriots guessing who will be at QB all week until naming Colt McCoy his starter on Friday, but it probably wasn’t just mind games. Gruden probably didn’t know who he would play — or be forced to play — under center until Friday.
And really, it doesn’t matter if it’s Keenum, Haskins or McCoy. Though McCoy is an interesting choice, given he hasn’t played since breaking his leg last December.
Whoever sees action at QB for the Redskins on Sunday is going to throw some passes to the Patriots. Maybe all three will get some run, and the Pats defense can complete an interception hat trick. That would be fun to watch.
Fun fact time: Washington’s offensive coordinator is former Patriots quarterback Kevin O’Connell. That may explain all those interceptions.
Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo have caught just four passes for 77 yards this season. Izzo has 41 of those yards on just one reception. He has been flagged three times for 25 yards, so really, the Patriots have gotten nothing out of the tight end position this season.
In comes Benjamin Watson, and even though he’s nearly 39, the veteran should be able to provide some semblance of solid tight end play for New England. He’ll also be fresh after sitting out the last four weeks. It can’t be worse than what the Patriots have received from the position over the first month of the season.
And while we’re talking tight ends, Washington employs one named Jeremy Sprinkle. He has more catches (5) than both New England tight ends combined this season, and a much cooler name.
The New Guy
It seems like no matter how reliable he was over the years, there was always a faction of Patriots fans and pundits calling for Stephen Gostkowski’s leg. They finally got their wish this week when New England’s all-time leader in points hit IR with a bad hip. In comes Mike Nugent to try and split the uprights for the Pats.
Gostkowski was bad to start the season, but now the Patriots are relying on a guy who hasn’t kicked in over a year, after his 2018 season ended due to — wait for it — a hip injury. He has played in 11 games over the last two season (for three teams), hitting 17 of his 19 field goals. But hold on tight, Pats fans: Nugent has missed three extra points over the last two seasons.
The kicking game shouldn’t matter too much this weekend, but we’ll see if Nugent is the only kicker to fill Gostkowski’s shoe throughout the season.