Washington Commanders predictions, odds, and preview for the 2023 season

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Washington Commanders 2023 season preview and predictions

This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.

 

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Dave Tuley: While the Giants were an overachieving surprise team in 2022, the same could be said of the Commanders in their first season after shedding the lame “Football Team” name. Washington finished 8-8-1 with the tie coming vs. those playoff-bound Giants while also giving the Eagles their first loss of the season in Week 9. They only missed the playoffs due to a three-game losing streak after their Week 14 bye. They’re still regarded as the worst team in the NFC East as DraftKings has them 11-1 to win the division as well as 40-1 to win the NFC and 65-1 to win the Super Bowl with an Over/Under Season Win Total of 6.5.

Offense

Carson Wentz started the season as Washington’s starting QB and led the Week 1 win over the Jaguars. They lost the next 4 games, and then he started in the Week 6 Thursday night win over the Bears, but he went on injured reserve with a fractured ring finger. The Commanders went on a 6-1 run, but that was behind Taylor Heinicke, who kept the starting job after Wentz was healthy. Then, Heinicke was benched in Week 16, with Wentz finishing the loss in San Francisco and then starting Week 17 vs. the Browns—a 24-10 loss that eliminated them from the playoff hunt. Rookie Sam Howell started the finale and beat the Cowboys 26-6 and looks like he’ll be given the reins to start this season. He gets to work with new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy from Kansas City.

Despite Heinicke’s winning run, the Commanders still only averaged 18.9 points per game (ranked No. 24 in the league) and 330.3 yards (No. 20). They also had a rotating lineup of running backs with Brian Johnson Jr. (team-leading 797 rushing yards in just 12 games) and Antonio Gibson (546 yards). Terry McLaurin was the top offensive threat with 77 catches for 1,191 yards but just 5 TDs. WRs Josh Dotson and Curtis Samuel also contributed, with Samuel also coming out of the backfield. They’re all back this season, and maybe the continuity will help Howell.

Defense

The defense really carried the Commanders, as it kept it in most games despite the pedestrian offense. They allowed just 20.2 points per game (ranking No. 8 in the league) and 304.6 yards (No. 3). It was a team effort as no defensive starter was voted to the AP All-Pro team—though special teamer Jeremy Reaves did make the first team—and Chase Young returns from his torn ACL suffered in Week 10 of the 2021 season.

In Young’s absence, defensive tackle Daron Payne led the Commanders with 11.5 sacks, with another DT Jonathan Allen adding 6.5. Leading tackler Jamin Davis (104 total tackles, 36 solo) returns. LB Cole Holcomb left for Pittsburgh via free agency, but Washington replaced him with Cody Barton from Seattle.   

Outlook

DraftKings has the Commanders’ Over/Under Season Win Total at 6.5 with a little added juice on the Over at -120. Like the Giants, the Commanders overachieved last season and could be in for a regression, but if the return of Young improves an already steady defense, this team could continue to surprise. It could all come down to how Howell performs. He played great in the season-finale win vs. the Cowboys, though they didn’t have anything to play for. Still, the fact this team upset the Eagles at full-strength and tied the Giants shows they could contend for the division title or a wild-card spot. RECOMMENDATION: Over 6.5

This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.

Michael Lombardi: Performing an exorcism is a religious or spiritual practice that involves evicting demons or malevolent spiritual entities from a person or an area. When Josh Harris became the new owner of the Washington Commanders, the demons of former owner Daniel Snyder were removed. The exorcism had to occur. Now Washington might get their fan base back, might have an engaged home field, and with second-year quarterback Sam Howell under center, they might have a long-term answer at the quarterback position. Let’s face it, Howell cannot be any worse than Carson Wentz or Taylor Heinicke, especially in the red zone. 

Washington had chances to win 10 games last year, but they continuously shot themselves in the foot with turnovers inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Their defense was outstanding without Chase Young rushing off the edge, and since his fifth-year option wasn’t exercised, he will be playing for a big contract this year. Don’t forget Washington beat Philadelphia last season in Philly and turned the ball over two times. They can physically match up to any offense in the league with their defensive front. If they can ever play from in front (they were outscored 156-147 in the first half last year), they will be able to pressure the opposing offense. 

Head coach Ron Rivera has to produce. With only four playoff appearances and three winning seasons over his 12-year career, he, like Young, will be playing for a new contract next season.

Player to Watch: QB Sam Howell

There’s a lot to like about Sam Howell. He’s got a big arm, can move, studies the playbook and has that quiet confidence front offices like to see in a passer. If the O-Line can protect and Howell can deliver on training camp and preseason promise, expect the Commanders to flirt with a playoff spot. 2023 first-round pick Emmanuel Forbes has also been too good not to mention. He has repeatedly shown an ability to find the football, and after a decorated career at Mississippi State that saw him break an NCAA record for interceptions returned for touchdowns, the corner could be a sneaky candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. – JP Finlay, NBC4 (@JPFinlayNBCS)

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