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NFL Power Rankings: The Washington Commanders are still a playoff team for now

Washington hasn’t won in a month, but still hold a spot in the playoffs

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Washington Commanders v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Washington Commanders lost to the San Francisco 49ers 37-20 on Christmas Eve. The Commanders drop to 7-7-1, but stayed in the 7th seed. The Giants, Seahawks, and Lions all lost, but the Packers won and are back in the playoff hunt. Washington still controls their own destiny, and can actually clinch a playoff spot this week if they beat the Cleveland Browns, and the Lions, Seahawks, and Packers all lose.

Last week most power rankers dropped Washington some after their home loss to the Giants, and this week’s loss has dropped them a little more. The switch to Carson Wentz was on most people’s minds as they ranked the team this week. Their highest rank dropped to 10th, their lowest rank dropped to 20th, and their average ranking actually went down by 1.2.

High: 12

Low: 20

Average: 15.4


CBS Sports(Prisco)

Taylor Heinicke didn’t play well against the 49ers, which could mean it’s time to go back to Carson Wentz. They are still a playoff team right now. Last Week: 12

AZ Central(Cluff)

Lost to 49ers, 37-20, to fall to 7-7-1. The Commanders still control their own playoff destiny with the Browns this week. Last Week: 14


Sporting News(Iyer)

The Commanders’ uncertainty at quarterback between Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke is interesting for a playoff-positioned team. Their defense has been a backbone of late, but it got a real wakeup call in San Francisco. Last Week: 13


Win and in despite the recent two-game skid. And keep Taylor Heinicke as the quarterback. Last Week: 12



Defining moment: Trading for Carson Wentz.

Washington has unsuccessfully sought an answer at quarterback for decades, and it was intent on finding a solution last offseason. Some used the word “desperate.” The Commanders missed on Russell Wilson — in hindsight, perhaps fortunately — and inquired about a lot of options. Acquiring Wentz cost them two third-round draft picks and $28 million in cap space. But so far, he has not proved he is anything other than a one-year experiment, playing inconsistent in his first six starts while throwing seven touchdown passes in his first two games and only three in the next four outings. Washington remains in the playoff race in part because backup Taylor Heinicke went 5-3-1 in relief, but Wentz could still have a chance to prove his worth over the final two games and possibly the postseason. — John Keim Last Week: 13

Pro Football Network(Miller)

Washington ran into a buzzsaw on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers. As any Taylor Heinicke team does, the Commanders battled to keep the game close, making it a one-possession game before halftime.

Then, the floodgates opened, and the 49ers showed all of us just how dominant they are heading into the home stretch of the season.

But the big news is Carson Wentz played, and he looked pretty good in relief of Heinicke when he was inserted in the fourth quarter. With Washington still in control of their playoff destiny, it will be fascinating to see who their starting QB is moving forward. Last Week: 14


The Washington Commanders didn’t emerge with a victory, but fans should be even happier about the increasing likelihood that Daniel Snyder sells the team. If that isn’t enough to generate good feelings on Christmas, the receiver trio of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel is going to be an alluring draw for a quarterback this offseason. Last Week: 16


It could be Carson Wentz time, with the playoffs on the line. Last Week: 13


Washington still controls its own destiny for a playoff spot. Last Week: 13


Last Week: 10


Bleacher Report

The last thing an NFL team clinging to postseason hopes needs is a quarterback controversy. But after pulling Taylor Heinicke in favor of Carson Wentz in last week’s loss at San Francisco, that’s exactly what the Washington Commanders are dealing with.

While addressing the media after the game, head coach Ron Rivera insisted that the team hasn’t decided who will be under center when the Commanders face the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.

“We’re gonna evaluate the tape, we’ll talk about those things, and I’ll make a decision next week,” Rivera said. “And I’ll make it early, too, because whoever’s gonna start is gonna get the chance to make it work.”

At least one of our analysts isn’t sure it will matter.

“Benching Heinicke for Wentz after benching Wentz for Heinicke pretty well sums up the quarterback situation in the nation’s capital,” Davenport said. Both quarterbacks have similar statistics, but for whatever reason, the team has enjoyed more success this year with Heinicke under center.

“In any event, while the Commanders may get past Cleveland, their best bet at beating Dallas in the finale is if the Cowboys rest players. If they don’t, it won’t matter who starts at quarterback, and the door will be open for a team behind them to snatch the last playoff spot in the NFC.” Last Week: 14

Clutch Points(Johrendt)

In their lackluster loss to the 49ers, the Commanders re-opened their starting QB role, with both Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz earning substantial playing time. Needing to figure things out fast, it likely will take a miracle from Ron Rivera and his coaching staff to turn this roster around and shape them back into postseason contenders. Last Week: 15

NFL SpinZone(Bedinger)

It’s been a tough handful of weeks for Taylor Heinicke’s Jordan collection. The Commanders have dropped two in a row and despite their December struggles, they would still be in the playoffs if the season ended today. It’s going to be absolutely critical for this team to come out swinging in Week 17 after getting wrecked by the 49ers.

They have a home game against the Cleveland Browns which should be “winnable” for a team fighting for a playoff spot, but what should anyone’s confidence level be in the Commanders at the moment? They have to find ways to make sure Jahan Dotson and Terry McLaurin are getting the ball and put it on those two to push this team into the postseason. Last Week: 13

Fox Sports(Helman)

With Seattle and Detroit both losing at the same time, getting dog-walked by San Francisco matters a lot less to the Commanders’ playoff odds. Still, it’s going to be interesting to watch Carson Wentz try to guide this team to the postseason if he does in fact remain the starter. Last Week: 14

The Score

Stick with Carson Wentz. Taylor Heinicke has turned the ball over five times during the Commanders’ three-game winless streak. It’s worth a shot to see whether a change at quarterback could provide a spark and help them hang on to the last wild-card spot. Last Week: 15

Touchdown Wire(Lane)

In a possible wild-card preview, Washington just couldn’t hang with the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Throw in a reevaluation of the quarterback job between Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz, and Washington is right on schedule to go off the rails the first week of January. Last Week: 14


Ron Rivera pulled the trigger on Saturday, benching Taylor Heinicke in favor of Carson Wentz in a 37-20 loss to the 49ers. Heinicke is a fiery competitor but also plainly inconsistent, and his struggles in the red zone might have been the final straw for Rivera, who will likely stay with Wentz in the final two weeks of the regular season. Now the Commanders must hope that Wentz can overcome the hot-and-cold style of play that has defined most of his own career. A sour end to the season under center could prompt a complete reboot at the position in the offseason. Last Week: 15

The Athletic(Wulf)

Whether Ron Rivera has announced it or not, it feels like a fait accompli that Carson Wentz will get the ball against Cleveland this week when the Commanders try to squeeze themselves into the playoffs. Beat Cleveland and they might get a Cowboys team with nothing to play for in Week 18, so things are shaping up like a redemption story of sorts for Wentz. But anyone who watched his Colts come up empty in the regular-season finale against the Jaguars last season knows nothing with Wentz is ever easy. Maybe the defense will get a boost from a different No. 2 overall pick, Chase Young, who made his season debut in the loss to the 49ers with two tackles on 30 defensive snaps. Last Week: 15

The 33rd Team(Domowitch)

Good news: Rookie first-round WR Jahan Dotson, who had just 14 catches in the first 12 games, has 15 for 235 yards and 3 TDs in the last three games.

Bad news: The 49ers’ cooled off the Commanders’ red-hot running game, holding them to 2.4 yards per carry. Washington had strung together five straight 150-plus-yard rushing games before Saturday. Last Week: 16

USA Today(Davis)

QB Carson Wentz could be back in the saddle for Week 17 as Washington tries to cling to its half-game lead for NFC’s last wild-card berth. Last Week: 17

Athlon Sports(Fischer)

The Taylor Heinicke era appears to be on its last legs but if Washington thinks that a quarterback change will cure all given the options on hand, they are probably kidding everybody involved after that outing in San Francisco. Last Week: 12

New York Post(Dunleavy)

Last Week: 14


Last Week: 15

Walter Football

Last Week: 13


Yahoo Sports(Schwab)

Getting Taylor Heinicke out of the game after the 49ers’ defense was getting to him made sense. Turning that into “Hey, maybe Carson Wentz should start next week” is a little confusing. Neither option is great though. Last Week: 17


NBC Sports

With a playoff berth hanging in the balance, the Commanders need an injection of life at quarterback. Not sure Carson Wentz qualifies.



It doesn’t quite matter who is in at quarterback. I think we saw the Commanders peak this season, which was nice. They are a well-schemed offense with talented players, but nowhere near potent enough to contend with the upper crust of this conference. Last Week: 13

The Lines

Taylor Heinicke was benched after committing consecutive turnovers and Carson Wentz (12-for-16, 123 yards, TD) looked good in relief against the elite 49ers defense. Washington’s defense is also on the verge of elite, yet their QB situation is still a bit messy. Last Week: 19


The Ringer(Gayle)

The Commanders have now lost back-to-back games coming out of their Week 14 bye and benched Taylor Heinicke in their most recent loss to San Francisco. As of Monday afternoon, Ron Rivera had yet to name a starter between Heinicke and Carson Wentz, but it feels safe to say that neither of those mediocre quarterbacks is capable of taking the Commanders on a run in the postseason, if they manage to even make it that far. Last Week: 17


Where should the Washington Commanders be ranked after 17 weeks?

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