If you’re looking forward to some NFL action today, there’s no need to wait until the afternoon. The first game of the day — Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — starts at 9:30 a.m. ET.
But the biggest storyline of the day comes when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Los Angeles Rams to see who can stay on top of the NFC West. Meanwhile, two of the worst teams in the league face off in what could be a schadenfreude-fest for fans of other teams.
Here are three things to look for this NFL Sunday:
1. 49ers face division rival Rams for NFC West supremacy
After a lackluster 2018 season, the San Francisco 49ers returned with a vengeance this year — opening with four straight victories. It’s a turnaround not many people saw coming, especially since the team isn’t starting many big-name players.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played in the FCS division of college football, and came back into the spotlight with the Patriots after replacing Tom Brady when he was suspended for “Deflategate.” Daniel Brunskill came to the team after a stint in the Alliance of the American Football before the league folded. Richard Sherman is well-known both for his Super Bowl winning play in Seattle and his views, but he only came to the squad after the Seahawks felt age and injuries made him expendable.
The Niners will be looking to jump on their Los Angeles rivals early, as the Rams have struggled in the first quarter all season. In fact, they’re the only team in the NFL without a first quarter touchdown.
For their part, the Rams don’t seem too concerned, having won the NFC West for two years running. In fact, most of the chatter surrounding the Rams this week stemmed from wide receiver Brandin Cooks’ Joker mask.
It seems the upstart 49ers will have to prove to their more successful foes that their winning ways are no laughing matter as San Francisco seeks its fifth straight win.
Watch: San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams at 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX.
2. Panthers and Buccaneers head to London
Last week, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium saw a thrilling comeback from the Oakland Raiders in a win over the Chicago Bears. NFL London continues for a second straight week, as the Carolina Panthers face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As it goes with games overseas, there’s lots to focus on besides football. On the Buccaneer’s side, running back Dare Ogunbowale seemed excited just to get on the plane, and tight end OJ Howard reveled in a Tottenham jersey made in his honor. Meanwhile, members of the Panthers played Jenga and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots on the practice field, as hometown favorite Efe Obada was mobbed by kids looking for autographs.
Obada is soaking in the moment — when asked what he’s looking forward to, he stated: “Having the opportunity to play in front of local Brits, people who aspire to be me, and just in front of my family.” But that doesn’t mean he’s overlooking football. “I would hate to get on a ten-hour flight and then lose,” he said.
Obada shouldn’t worry too much. The Panthers are 2.5 point favorites over the Buccaneers, and will look to win their fourth straight contest after dropping their first two games.
Watch: Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 9:30 a.m. ET on NFL Network.
3. Two of the NFL’s defeated teams go head-to-head
The Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins have combined for 0 wins in 9 games so far this season. But that losing streak will end for one team on Sunday, when the Dolphins and Redskins go head-to-head.
“Both of us haven’t won a game, so we’re looking for a win … but we know no one’s going to give it to us,” Dolphins defensive end Davon Godchaux told reporters.
When asked about the Dolphins’ league-worst rush defense, he laughed and replied: “It’s very painful. I try not to look at it, but it is what it is.” The beleaguered unit will look to turn things around against a Washington offense that is almost as equally woeful.
The Redskins’ main problem is a lack of consistent quarterback play, now compounded by a new coach. Former Texas Longhorn Colt McCoy started last week, but it appears journeyman Case Keenum will get the start against the Dolphins. “Nothing surprises me anymore … as a professional, you have to be ready to come in and work,” Keenum told reporters.
Keenum and the rest of the team also had to deal with the firing of Jay Gruden, a coach well-liked by his players. “Football’s a great game but a tough business, and there’s a lot of hard days,” Keenum said.
It’ll be a hard day for whichever team loses on Sunday, but these two clubs still have some competition for the worst in the league. The 0-5 Bengals will also seek their first victory when playing the Ravens.
Watch: Washington Redskins vs. Miami Dolphins at 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX.