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NFL Storylines after Week 5: A brutal season for kickers continues

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USA Today

NFL Storylines after Week 5: A brutal season for kickers continues

Despite a 24-point loss on Monday Night Football, the Redskins remain in first place in the NFC East.

Is the NFC East the new AFC South? Are the Browns back? Will the Rams or Chiefs shut up Mercury Morris?

Let’s take a look at the top storylines in the NFL after Week 5. 

Biggest Week 5 NFL Storylines

1. Eagles are still hungover

It didn’t seem like the Eagles partied as hard as the Capitals did following their championship but it certainly looks that way after five weeks. Philadelphia is 2-3 and is also need of a running back (Jay Ajayi is out for the season with a torn ACL).

Even with Ajayi on the field, the Eagles struggled to score. Philadelphia has not scored more than 24 points in any of their games. Last season, they scored 24 or more points in 12 games. 

That all being said, the Eagles remain just a ½ game back of the Redskins for first place in the NFC East. 

2. Champagne remains on ice

There is still plenty of time for the 1972 Miami Dolphins to pop some bubbly but through five weeks there is a pair of unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL, the Chiefs and the Rams. 

Handing the keys to Patrick Mahomes has worked out quite well for the Chiefs. Mahomes finally threw an interception in the Chiefs’ win over the Jaguars on Sunday (he actually threw two). Still, a 14-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio is quite solid.

Remember when we thought Jared Goff was bust? Well, he’s not. Goff leads the NFL in passing yards and is a budding superstar. The Rams have an embarrassment of riches on offense and Sean McVay (I know it hurts Redskins fans) can do no wrong orchestrating things on the sidelines.

The surprising part has been the Rams defense has struggled over the past two weeks, allowing to 31 points in Vikings and Seahawks.

3. Everyone is a winner!

Do the 2017 Browns and 2008 Lions celebrate when the final NFL team gets a win? Probably not.

But if they did, they would have celebrated on Sunday because the Arizona Cardinals notched their first win of the season, a 28-18 victory of the 49ers. 

When will the Rams officially clinch the NFC West? L.A. is three games up on 2-3 Seattle. Both Arizona and San Francisco are 1-4.

I think it’s safe to say the Rams are going to win this division.

4. BREAKING NEWS: The Patriots will be fine

Back-to-back losses had the hot takers proclaiming the Patriots were dead.

When are they going to stop doing that? Over the past two weeks, the Patriots destroyed the Dolphins and scored 38 points in a win over the Colts on Thursday night.

Will the Patriots win another Super Bowl this year? I don’t know. But we do have to remember their house remains the nicest in an ugly neighborhood (that's an analogy for the AFC East being bad). 

Another January game in Foxboro seems likely.

5. What happened to Dak Prescott?

It wasn’t that long ago when Dak could do no wrong. After taking over for the injured Tony Romo, Prescott helped lead the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and a NFC East title. He was selected to go to the Pro Bowl and was named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Now, Prescott ranks No. 24 in passing yards and is among the worst in completion percentage (61.8%). 

After the 2016 season, people would have looked at you like you had three heads if you told them that Jared Goff would be better than Prescott.

Dak is not Dallas' only problem. The Cowboys have a lot of issues including a head coach that decided to punt the ball away at the opponent’s 42-yard line in overtime.

This does not look like a team that will win more than five or six games.

6. Kickers. 

It has been an odd season for kickers. Daniel Carlson and Zane Gonzalez both lost their jobs after dreadful performances in Week 2. On Sunday, former Redskins kicker Graham Gano made a game-winning field goal from 63 yards in Carolina! Panthers QB Cam Newton said of his kicker, "A wise man once told me great quarterbacks are only as good as their kicker."

Then there was Packers veteran kicker Mason Crosby. He missed four field goals and an extra point in the Green Bay’s 31-23 loss to the Lions. Crosby became the first kicker to miss four field goals and an extra point in the same game since the Raiders' Cole Ford in 1997, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. As of now, the Packers are going to stick with Crosby.

And who said kicks need to be pretty to be effective…

Week 6 will be here before we now it and it will certainly bring us a whole new slew of storylines. 

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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UA Today Sports

Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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