This week is a real treat on Thursday Night Football, with the Washington Commanders and Chicago Bears squaring off in a battle of sub-.500 teams in prime time. It’s unclear what anybody did to deserve this, but here we are.
Other than wanting to see Chicago’s orange helmets — or perhaps, you’ll tune in because you placed a wager on the game — there’s not much of a reason to watch this far from must-see TV matchup. Washington is in last place in the surprisingly strong (besides the Commanders) NFC East, while Chicago sits in third place in the NFC Central, one game ahead of perennial bottom dwellers, the Detroit Lions. Both teams have scored the fewest points in their respective divisions. These teams score less than 18 points per game, ranking them among the NFL’s lowest-producing offenses.
So, if you’re a fan of high-scoring football, this doesn’t appear to be the right fit for you. However, the Bears aren’t totally lifeless, as they’re the fifth-ranked rushing offense in the league through five weeks, averaging 157.4 yards on the ground. Part of that is due to quarterback Justin Fields’ ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs, although, it seems like those are the only plays he’s been able to make consistently. Fields is tied with another running QB, Daniel Jones, for the fewest passing touchdowns among full-time starters, with three.
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In Washington, Carson Wentz is coming off a week where he threw an interception at the goal line to lose the game for the Commanders, then was thrown under the bus by his head coach Ron Rivera following the game. Rivera later apologized to Wentz and said they are “ready to roll.”
“Carson and I had a nice conversation, so I think we’re ready to roll,” Rivera said.
The Commanders aren’t totally inept through the air, as Washington boasts the 10th-ranked passing attack in the NFL coming into this game. Unfortunately for the team, that hasn’t translated into wins so far through the first quarter of the season.
Wentz has been much better than Fields, as he’s tied with Justin Herbert for fifth in TD passes with 10. However, the signal-caller tends to make mistakes at the worst time imaginable. He’s recorded six INTs and six fumbles.
And it’s not just the on-field product that’s bad. Team owner Daniel Snyder claims to have dirt on “several NFL owners” that could blow up the league. Add that to numerous allegations and investigations into Snyder’s Commanders in recent years and it’s clear that bad company culture definitely starts at the top.
If you’re gonna put on Thursday Night Football this week — I salute you if you made it through last week’s snoozer — you better hope it’s actually competitive. Last week, the Colts beat the Broncos, 12-9, in an overtime yawnfest. To give you an idea of how bad this game was, these teams converted less than 20 percent (six out of 31) of third downs combined. Yes, that craptacular game went into an extra quarter. All the Commanders and Bears need to do is produce one TD and not force the viewing public to hang around any longer than possible. Please give us a rushing TD, special teams, a pick-six, or anything more than field goals. Unless Justin Tucker’s playing, nobody wants to see that much kicking in any football game.
Fortunately, there is good news for those who value options in life because you’ll have plenty this evening. While the Major League Baseball playoffs are in full bloom, the only game on the schedule today should be done by the time the Bears and Commanders kick off. But the NBA has a couple of preseason games that’ll be happening in case this TNF game becomes too much to bear (pun intended?). The Grizzlies and Pistons are playing tonight, followed by the Thunder and Spurs. These aren’t the grandest options, even for preseason hoops, but they are available if you need them.
And if it gets really bad, there’s always something for you non-sports related in primetime. Law & Order: SVU on NBC is an option in the same basic time slot. Also, you could always flip to Young Sheldon on CBS or Hell’s Kitchen on FOX. And for those who don’t have Amazon Prime, you might be jumping over to one of those boats anyway.
But seriously, America loves its NFL football, so there’s bound to be some sort of audience — even with a matchup as undesirable as this one. Factors like fantasy football [Editor’s note: I’m not sure how many players from either Washington or Chicago you’d have rostered, anyway] and gambling have made pretty much every NFL game “watchable” today. It really comes down to a matter of your tolerance level for field goals and inexplicably lousy offense.