By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and after nearly a week of delays, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers squared off on Wednesday afternoon. It was not worth the wait as the Steelers ended up winning a sloppy, mistake-laden affair. Pittsburgh won the game to remain undefeated, but the Steelers hardly took advantage of a cupcake match-up against a Ravens team suffering through a COVID-19 outbreak. The Steelers will look to move to 12-0 on Monday afternoon against the Washington Football Team.
As for the Ravens, the loss drops the team to a disappointing 6-5. Baltimore has lost three straight games heading into a Week 13 match-up against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday. It isn’t yet clear how Baltimore’s roster will look on Monday, but there is a chance the team will again be starting quarterback Trace McSorely. The Ravens are in danger of dropping a fourth straight game, and should that happen, returning to the playoffs will be a tall task. The Browns (8-3), Dolphins (7-4), and Colts (7-4) currently sit in control of a Wild Card berth in the AFC, and the Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) hold a tie-breaker over Baltimore.
A potential playoff preview on Sunday will likely have a massive difference-maker on the field as Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett was confirmed to play in Cleveland’s match-up against the Tennessee Titans. Garrett missed Week 12 while on the COVID-19 list, but the game-changer will be back in the fold against Tennessee’s injury-ravaged pass protection in Week 13. Fortunately for the Titans, despite injuries along the line, the offense continues to thrive due to the unstoppable force also known as Derrick Henry. The Browns defense, led by Garrett, will be tasked with the challenging task of slowing down the NFL’s leading rusher.
Another highlight from Sunday’s slate finds the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Los Angeles Rams. After being on the path to a playoff berth for much of the season, Arizona has hit a wall. The Cardinals have lost three of four, with the lone win coming courtesy of an improbable, game-ending hail mary connection. Arizona won’t find things much easier against L.A.’s swarming defense on Sunday. The Rams offense remains inconsistent due to quarterback Jared Goff, but the team’s defense—once again led by Aaron Donald—is an absolute wrecking crew. The Rams are a formidable opponent, but this is a game Arizona needs to win.
In the NBA, a shocking blockbuster hit the news of Wednesday night as the Houston Rockets agreed to trade All-Star Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards, receiving point guard John Wall and a protected future first-round pick in return. For basketball reasons, the trade is a curious move for both teams, as it seems to be more about off-court concerns than on-court fit. For the first time in his career, Wall will be tasked with playing off-ball to James Harden. Meanwhile, Westbrook is again looking at a supporting, albeit high usage, role alongside Bradley Beal in the nation’s capital.
For Houston, the trade’s success or not will come down to the health of John Wall. At his best, he is an All-NBA level guard. However, Wall had previously struggled through a heel injury that became a torn Achilles. There is zero indication Wall is ready to produce at any level, let alone an All-NBA player. Without competent play out of Wall, the Rockets will again be doomed to a substandard result.
Washington will hope adding Westbrook to the fold convinces Bradley Beal of a commitment to winning. The pairing is tough to see on paper, but Westbrook is capable of adaptation. Beal has emerged as an All-NBA level player thanks to a superstar-level of usage on offense. Having Westbrook to attract defensive attention will undoubtedly take away touches from Beal on that end of the court, but it should aid his efficiency. The Wizards are hardly a guaranteed playoff team due to the move, but Washington has more cause for optimism now than three days ago.