Week 2 of the NFL season brings us a contest that reunites Sean McVay with the team he used to coordinate in the Washington Redskins. McVay rose up the coaching ranks with the Skins starting out as the assistant tight ends coach before eventually becoming the team's offensive coordinator. Kirk Cousins signed a jersey for McVay and gave it to him basically thanking him for his career. Washington's offense was very good under the young assistant coach, so good that the Rams decided to bring him over to Los Angeles.
The Rams beat up on the Colts 46-9 in their opener. Jared Goff threw for 310 yards, but the defense was the bigger story. They harassed Indy to the tune of just 225 yards allowed and three turnovers. The Skins, meanwhile, struggled offensively and fell to the Eagles 30-17. They managed just 264 yards of total offense as Cousins threw a crucial interception in the red zone in the loss.
These two teams played two years ago with Washington winning 24-10 at home. In that game the Redskins ran the ball successfully with Matt Jones scoring twice on the ground. Jones is now on the Colts' practice squad.
Washington at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 17 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Rams -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Gaining an advantage on the ground
I used this as something to watch in the Philadelphia/Washington opener and the Eagles won that game despite being outgained 64-58 on the ground. Washington cannot have Kirk Cousins throw it 40 times or more every game because the weapons aren't the same. The Redskins have tight end Jordan Reed, who is dealing with a fractured toe even though he doesn't appear on the injury report, and Terrelle Pryor, who is still adjusting to being the No. 1 wide receiver for his new team. Josh Doctson, the team's 2016 first-round pick, can't get on the field and Ryan Grant doesn't scare anyone. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley wasn't able to do much on the ground against a soft Colts defense, finishing with 40 yards on 19 carries although he did have a short touchdown run. Jared Goff threw for 306 yards and a score, but Los Angeles can't count on that every week. The Rams aren't flush with playmakers either. Like Pryor, Sammy Watkins (5 rec., 58 yds. in Week 1) is still getting acclimated to his new team, although third-round pick Cooper Kupp (4-76-1) had a nice debut.
2. Beware the Donald
Aaron Donald is going to play Sunday although on a snap count. He was not with the team for the opener after holding out during training camp and all of the preseason, but his mere presence will make the defense even better. The All-Pro tackle had eight sacks and two forced fumbles in 2016. Washington's offensive line had a bit of a rough start against the Eagles' stout front seven last week. Fletcher Cox made his presence known in that so even with limited snaps Donald figures to do the same. Cousins continues to struggle against the blitz, so you know Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will dial up some exotic stuff for him, especially now that Donald is back up front.
3. Back to reality?
Let's face it, the Rams aren't going to put up 40-plus points every game while the Redskins' offense won't be this stagnant all season. The question is which unit will regress to the mean. Los Angeles scored 21 points or more just four times last season and Goff had some problems putting good back-to-back efforts together. The former No. 1 overall pick could struggle against Washington's cornerback duo of Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland. Cousins had a 101.5 quarterback rating on the road in 2016 so maybe playing out west in the Coliseum is just what he needs to get going. Getting Reed more involved in the offense would be a good start.
The familiarity aspect of this game makes it more intriguing. Do you believe the Redskins know more about Sean McVay's tendencies or does he know how to attack Kirk Cousins more? As I said above, I'm not ready to say Los Angles is going to all of a sudden turn things around because of one game. The Rams' defense is really fierce, but the Redskins represent more of a challenge than the Colts presented in Week 1. This one is going to be a lower scoring contest that I think the road team takes. I'm not that worried about home-field advantage yet with the Rams whose fan base hasn't fully embraced them yet and may never do so. Cousins gets two touchdowns and Washington wins.
Prediction: Redskins 20, Rams 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.