On Fridays during each week of the NFL season, Tiebreaker.com will take a look at what we believe to be the five most interesting storylines for that weekend’s games.
It could be about a player, a team, maybe a trend that’s developed over time that might impact a matchup. In other words, we’ll be fluid, reacting to what has happened in the league and what might be coming next.
Pederson fans the flame for Cowboys
One of the basic rules at any level of competitive sports is never do or say anything that gives your opponent extra incentive to beat you.
So the Philadelphia Eagles have coach Doug Pederson to blame if the Dallas Cowboys pinned the transcript of a radio interview he did in Philadelphia to its cork board.
The Eagles were coming off the beating they took in Minnesota that dropped them to 3-3 and Pederson was in no mood to sulk about the poor performance. So instead of bogging the conversation down with the dissection of x’s and o’s, he got right to the point.
“We’re going down to Dallas, and our guys are gonna be ready to play. And we’re gonna win that football game, and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East,” Pederson told the radio station. “We control our own destiny. We’re right where we need to be.”
You’ll note the Cowboys might be ripe for picking. They’ve lost three games straight and now are also 3-3. So this will be a battle for first place in the NFC East.
Of course, when confronted with the implication of his comment, Pederson back-peddled like a cornerback covering Larry Fitzgerald.
“Never said. … I never said ‘guarantee a win,'” Pederson said. “I’d never do that.”
Then he offered some elaboration.
“It shows confidence in our football team,” said Pederson. “I promise you [Cowboys coach] Jason Garrett is going to say the same thing with his team, that they are going to win the football game, as well. I’m not going to stand up here and go on record and say, ‘We’re going to go there and try and win a game. Man, hopefully we can go win this one.’ It just doesn’t show confidence. And I want to show confidence in our players. We got a ton of confidence in them.”
Garrett sounded pretty chill when asked to comment about what Pederson said.
“My response is we’re excited about the challenge,” said Garrett. “Obviously they’re a great football team and we’re going to focus on ourselves and what we need to do to prepare to play our best football on Sunday night.”
Thomas returns to Seattle after unfortunate exit
Players get traded and released every day. It’s all a part of being an NFL player. But sometimes the end of a relationship, especially a long and particularly successful one, is fraught with anger and misunderstanding.
For nine seasons, Earl Thomas was one of the greatest safeties ever to play for the Seattle Seahawks. In fact, there are those who believe he will be a Hall of Famer. And yet, Thomas and the Seahawks got into a dispute about a contract extension that led to bad feelings on the player’s part.
Unfortunately for Thomas, his 2018 season ended with a broken leg in Arizona on Sept. 30. And as he was being carted off the field, the camera caught him giving the Seattle sideline, particularly coach Pete Carroll, the finger.
“Obviously he was upset,” Carroll told the Seattle Times. “But, my heart’s pretty big, pretty wide open to these guys from the time we spend together and all the stuff that we do. It’s way more important than some gesture or some statement. … I kind of have space for them to be themselves and how they do it and how they handle it — I’m going to love them anyway.”
On Sunday, Thomas returns to Seattle with his new team, the Baltimore Ravens. He admitted last summer that he did not regret what he did, but he will come into the game feeling somewhat sentimental about the past.
“They gave me my first shot. I won so many games there, grew up as a young man there,” said Thomas on Wednesday. “So, I’m always going to respect that organization and always going to be a part of it.”
Shanahan says he’s forgiven the Redskins
The undefeated San Francisco 49ers appear to have a big advantage on Sunday when they play at the Washington Redskins, who are 1-5 after their first victory last week at Miami.
San Francisco will be particularly careful not to take the Redskins too lightly. But there’s no chance they would because the ax coach Kyle Shanahan has to grind is especially powerful.
Shanahan was Washington’s offensive coordinator from 2010-13, the time his father, Mike, was the team’s head coach. Working for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has never been easy and ultimately the Shanahan’s suffered the same fate as so many other coaching staffs have on Synder’s watch.
Kyle Shanahan was asked this week what he fondest memory was about this time in Washington.
“Being able to work with my dad and be around some other good coaches,” said Shanahan.
Then came the follow-up: What was the worst part.
“Everything else,” he said.
It would be natural to assume Shanahan might come into this game with at least a small sense of wanting some retribution against Redskins management. But if he does, he did the right thing by playing it down.
“No, not at all,” said Shanahan. “That was a while ago. I’ve been in three different buildings since. My dad retired. He’s good. We’ve accepted what we had to deal with there and moved on. We’ll watch other people deal with it.”
“I’ve moved on with my life in many other ways and I think my family has also. I think it’s pretty easy not to make it personal – the guys who get personal with it don’t play in the game. It’s not an issue; we’ve got our team coming to play their team and we’re looking forward to that.”
Will Ramsey debut with the Rams?
Less than a year after losing to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams (3-3) find themselves struggling to stay above the water line in the NFC West.
That was one of the big reasons they shook things up this week by trading cornerback Marcus Peters to Baltimore and then dealing a pair of No. 1 draft picks to Jacksonville for disgruntled corner Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey missed the last three games in Jacksonville with a variety of trumped-up personal and physical ailments and the Rams have said they’re not quite sure if he will play this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons.
But one thing is certain: Ramsey could not be happier about his new workplace. And the Rams hope the skillset he brings to their defense can help turn the team’s season around.
“I was overjoyed,” said Ramsey. “I was super, super excited. A fresh start and a fresh start in a place like L.A. with the coach (Sean McVay) that I have heard about here. I’m a young guy still. Everybody around here’s kind of young. I feel like it’ll be like a little bit more understanding. I was just honestly super excited.”
It would be helpful if Ramsey does play. The Falcons might be 1-5, but don’t blame Matt Ryan and his crew of talented receivers – Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley.
“Very exciting thing for us,” said McVay of the trade for Ramsey. “Obviously, know the caliber of player he is. The competitiveness, the toughness, really all the traits you look for in a corner. Those are some of the things exciting about getting him in here.”
“The goal is to be able to do that (get Ramsey ready), but we’ll be smart about. We definitely want to have the intent to get him ready to go, and we’ll always make smart decisions.”
Officially, the pressure’s on the Lions
The NFL officiating fraternity had another disastrous night on Monday trying to negotiate its way through the game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the majority of the questionable calls came late in the game hurt them. And they ultimately led to their 23-22 loss to the Packers, a defeat that dropped them to 2-2-1.
All of a sudden, the Lions appear to be in a must-win situation when they play the Vikings at home. And much of that will revolve around how effectively they are able to put their intense disappointment behind them.
Making matters worse was the NFL admitted its mistake in calling a second hands-to-face penalty on defensive end Trey Flowers. That’s the only which set up the Packers’ game-winning field goal.
“If you go through a game and are relying on the officials to tell you whether or not you won, I don’t really think you’re going to turn out in a favorable manner more times than not,” said Lions coach Matt Patricia. “For us, it’s about going out and [doing] the things that we can control to win the game and do that better. That’s really what we got to do. We got to control the game and give ourselves a chance to win through the efforts and the execution and the coaching that we do, more so than by what an official does.”