As part of our 2023 NFL Preseason Preview Series, we look at the current state of each team in an attempt to identify reasons for optimism and causes for concern and, most importantly, what can be exploited in the current betting marketplace.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
The Commanders defense was one of the best units in the NFL last season despite a very difficult schedule, despite playing without DE stalwart Chase Young for the first 14 games. Washington’s defense finished 5th in EPA per play, 9th in pass EPA, 3rd in rush EPA, and 1st in success rate. The weakest part of their defense was their secondary, and the Commanders drafted 2 cornerbacks, including ballhawking Mississippi State corner Emmanuel Forbes. Washington’s defense is playoff if not Super Bowl caliber. If the offense can play even average, they could make a playoff push. With a solid group of receivers in Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Jahan Dotson, Sam Howell could be a diamond in the rough. If not, journeyman Jacoby Brissett is the backup.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Even with the Commanders defense playing incredibly well last season, they only mustered a .500 record. Last year’s team was quarterbacked by Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. Neither are starter-worthy, but both have more talent than 5th-round quarterback Sam Howell. The Commanders’ limited success last season was a bit of a facade. They finished 6th-best in blended 4Q win% over expected, 4th in fumble rec%, and went 5-3 in one-score games. Defenses tend to vacillate from year to year, so to expect the defensive side of the ball to live up to last year’s results is probably a fool’s errand. With a top-10 hardest schedule and the worst projected starting QB in the league, it could be a long year for Washington.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: BETTING OPPORTUNITIES
The Commanders are the worst team in the NFC East, and I don’t think it's close. Starting Sam Howell at QB will allow them to evaluate him, but he will most likely flame out. Although Brissett has had success in the NFL, I have serious doubts about him behind a porous offensive line and alongside a nonexistent run game. OC Eric Bienemy was brought in to rejuvenate this offense, but he hasn’t called plays in KC, which limits my expectations of his success. He may have also been brought in as a stopgap in case HC Ron Rivera is let go, a definite possibility if the wheels fall off. The Washington Commanders know they need a QB in next year’s draft.
Best Bet: Week 8 PHI -4 at WAS (Play to -5.5)