Preseason is over and the Washington Football Team is preparing for their Week 1 home game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The roster has been cut down to 53 players(along with 16 practice squad players), and a new depth chart is out. It’s Tuesday, and that means the return of NFL Power Rankings to see where the “experts” think Washington stands in the 32-team league.
Washington was 7-9 last year in Ron Rivera’s first season as head coach. They won the division after a very rocky start, and ended up starting 4 QBs including their playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Two of those QBs(Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins Jr.) are no longer with the team, but they have been replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Washington didn’t address the QB of the future in the draft which they got knocked for in their draft grades.
The Washington Football Team have quite a bit going for them in 2021.
The defense could be the best in the league. The D-line features four starters who were all first-round picks. The arrival of rookie Jamin Davis injected athleticism into the linebacker corps, and the secondary is strong.
On offense, the team possesses an above-average line. In running back Antonio Gibson, tight end Logan Thomas and wideouts Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, Washington has a solid array of skill-position talent.
In theory, Washington has just about everything it takes to repeat as NFC East champions and get back to the playoffs.
Provided, that is, Ryan Fitzpatrick can hold his own as the team’s quarterback.
Fitzpatrick was decent in seven starts for the Dolphins in 2020, and he has thrown 50 touchdown passes against 33 interceptions over the past three seasons.
But Fitzpatrick is also a 38-year-old journeyman with 169 career interceptions and a career record of 59-86-1 who has never led a team to the postseason.
Call it a leap of faith. The Washington Football Team made the playoffs last season despite having one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Ryan Fitzpatrick, while flawed, is a significant upgrade over Alex Smith. We expect the defense to be elite and there are underrated weapons offensively. This is the best team in the NFC East.
The defense will be nasty, maybe even the best in the NFL. So the big question is whether Ryan Fitzpatrick can be good enough on offense. I think he can be.
Coach Ron Rivera did an excellent job last season, and Washington won the pitiable NFC East basically by default. The division presumably will be at least a bit better this season, and Rivera’s team again should be in the mix. The defense is legitimate. Ryan Fitzpatrick, as a temporary solution at quarterback, should be able to distribute the ball effectively to a decent cast of playmakers, as long as he can limit the interceptions.
Washington won’t be sub-.500 again as it threatens the Cowboys with its own explosive offense as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick facilitates its many playmakers. There’s already a strong defensive backbone for Ron Rivera’s team with Chase Young and others.
Everybody knows the defense will be as salty as they come, especially given upgrades like William Jackson III coming in at corner. The ultimate arbiter however will undoubtedly be the play of veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (or Taylor Heinicke or even Kyle Allen). There should be greater consistency under center but whether that allows for a big enough jump beyond just winning the meh NFC East remains up for debate.
Washington remains the highest-ranked NFC East club. The team features a top-10 defense, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s inconsistent arm holds Washington back for now.
Old gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick is running a vertically-oriented passing attack under Scott Turner, but with Chase Young and Montez Sweat leading the best young pass rush in the NFL, the Washington offense could play things a bit more conservatively.
An already fearsome defense (which ranked third in DVOA last year) got even better over the offseason with the additions of cornerback William Jackson and first-round linebacker Jamin Davis. The offseason move that could really put this team over the top, though, is the Ryan Fitzpatrick signing. The wiley veteran will be helming a talented offense featuring Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Logan Thomas, and Curtis Samuel―and if this group can manage even league-average efficiency after finishing dead last in DVOA in 2020, it should make Washington the clear favorites in the NFC East.
I’ll be picking WFT to win the division with confidence. The defense should be top three in the NFL, and the offense is going to be a ton better. The opener against the Chargers might end up being the best game of Week 1.
Highest-place vote: 11 (1)
Lowest-place vote: 21 (2)
Postdraft rank: 20
Week 1: vs. Chargers
Washington won the division at 7–9 and then hung in a playoff game with Taylor Heinicke last season. Nobody will take this team lightly, given what we’ve seen from that defense.
The Football Team’s defense, which was already scary, could be even better in 2021. If that combines with more good from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick than what will be the inevitable bad outings… watch out.
Including the playoff loss to the Bucs, head coach Ron Rivera utilized four different starting quarterbacks a season ago. Now it’s ageless Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center for the defending NFC East champions.
There are capable weapons in running back Antonio Gibson, wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel and tight end Logan Thomas. Led by 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Chase Young, Washington’s defense is simply frightening.
Hard not to be excited about the reigning NFC East champs. Equally hard to divine how they avoid a one step forward, two steps back fate given the short-term approach applied to the quarterback position.
Previous rank: No. 22
Washington gave Curtis Samuel the bag in free agency to be a do-everything menace on offense. Unfortunately for the Football Team, Samuel’s been a consistent force on the DNP list in 2021. A groin injury kept the dynamic wide receiver out of preseason action and team drills throughout training camp, and coach Ron Rivera has been cryptic about Samuel’s status for Week 1 against the Chargers, although the WR’s participation in Monday’s practice was an encouraging sign. “It’ll be all or nothing,” Rivera said last week. “He’ll either be ready, which is great, or if he’s not ready, great.” This is an annoying answer, Riverboat.
Win total: 8.5 (Over -121)
The media loves Washington this season. Can anyone blame them?
An amazing defense, led by Chase Young, that can generate pressure and suffocate opponents at the line of scrimmage. A reinforced secondary that can line up and shut down the best passing attacks in the league. The athleticism on offense! Oh, the athleticism! Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Cam Sims: Speed, depth, and sure hands. Then there is Antonio Gibson in the backfield, who combined for more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage as a rookie last season.
And to match all that young, promising, dynamic talent at quarterback... is 38-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick. The mastermind of the offensive talent ...second-year OC Scott Turner.
Don’t get me wrong, Turner did great with what he had in 2020 and Fitzpatrick looked phenomenal in Miami as a part-time QB. But now Fitzpatrick is the full-time starter and nothing is getting easier. Lest we forget, for the duration of his 30’s, Fitzpatrick ranked 22nd in EPA per dropback. Are we certain he deserves such an upgrade after a one-off 2020 season?
The betting market is not entirely certain either. Despite having a win total of 8.5 shaded to the over, the Football Team is favored in just four games all season and just once in their first 13 games.
The defense that garners all the media attention, well consider that it finished best in the league against the fifth easiest schedule in 2020 — and this year will face Prescott (twice), Mahomes, Herbert, Carr, Ryan, Brady, Allen, Rodgers, and Wilson in 2021. Washington could certainly be a 9- or 10-win team, but it seems like everything has to go right without a single slip-up the entire year.
Over bettors are putting a ton of trust in a 38-year-old journeyman QB and a defense leading the way.
Bet the Under:
Brutal schedule of opposing QB’s the entire season
Favored in just four games this year, despite having a win total of 8.5 shaded to the over
Fitzpatrick’s career numbers are nowhere near as good as his one-off 2020 season
Bet the Over:
Explosive skill position players with a ton of depth
Potential to have the top-rated overall defense
NFC East is one of the weakest divisions in football
Where should the Washington Football Team be ranked heading into Week 1?