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Washington Commanders vs Detroit Lions Preview: 3 matchups to watch

The Washington Commanders will have their work cut out for them against the favored Detroit Lions on Sunday.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders head into Week 2 undefeated after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. Clearly, the oddsmakers weren’t impressed, as the Detroit Lions are favored for the first time in over 20 games, as they welcome the DMV’s finest to Ford Field.

The matchup may favor Detroit in terms of betting lines, but the Commanders should look like the more talented team regularly throughout this game. The matchup bodes well for Washington on paper, with shaky quarterback play under center for the Lions, and a mediocre defense, there shouldn’t be much heavy lifting involved despite Detroit maintaining their status as one of the more gritty teams in the NFL.

The Lions will be coming into this contest with D’Andre Swift on the injury list after rolling his ankle last week. Center Frank Ragnow is out and Guard Jonah Jackson is questionable after not practicing for two days. For the Commanders, they stay relatively healthy, with veteran Carson Wentz poised for a big game against a defense that’s known to give up big plays, but the same can be said for Washington’s secondary.

Yet, on any given Sunday, we see that the outcome is never predetermined. Detroit has a couple of routes to victory, as does Washington, but there are three individual matchups that I’ll have my eye on as we see these two teams take the turf at 1 p.m. ET.

Matchup 1: Jeffrey Okudah vs. Terry McLaurin

The Ohio State battle for the ages, between two players with immense levels of talent will be on display for our entertainment on Sunday. Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah played 45 snaps as a left-side corner for the Lions last week, and the wide receiver that will see his side of the field most,is Commander’s star Terry McLaurin.

McLaurin is one of the best route runners in football, with excellent footwork, high route running IQ, and three-level speed that can attack a defense anywhere on the field. For Okudah, he’s built like the prototypical CB1 for the ages. Excellent size, length, foot quickness, great closing speed, quick hips, and can close passing windows in a hurry.

Detroit took the former Buckeye number three overall back in 2020, but unfortunately, he hasn’t paid off just yet. Injuries have taken their toll, and he has had a porous cast around him, Jeff hasn’t been able to shine very brightly in the Motor City.

The matchup between these two will be interesting because from a raw tools and traits perspective Jeffrey Okudah has some of the skills to give Terry McLaurin a rough time on Sunday. But McLaurin has also proven to be able to attack the league’s best corners, and have adequate performances week after week no matter who is across from him.

Okudah had an excellent game against Philly last week with nine tackles and one pass defended, and McLaurin showed out by winning numerous one-on-one matchups even if the statistics don’t show high-level productivity. The battle between these two friends will be a pleasure for us to see, as two of the more talented players at their respective positions will duke it out between the lines.

Matchup #2: TJ Hockenson vs. Cole Holcomb/Jamin Davis

Jamin Davis was the linebacker of discussion this week, and rightfully so. He has a lot to learn when it comes to pass coverage, and he’ll need fast improvements if he looks to stop Lions’ aerial attack as a zone defender. He’ll likely take the duties of slowing down Hockenson when he sees him in the slot, depending on Washington’s alignment/scheme, but for his inline duties, you can expect Cole Holcomb to be looked at as the primary line of defense.

One of the more highly touted prospects at his position that we’ve seen, Hockenson is on his way up to filling out his potential as the number eight overall selection back in 2019.

After a couple of injury-riddled seasons, along with having to learn the intricacies of the position, it looks like Hockenson has finally found some footing as a professional over the last two years. He’s become one of the more sure-handed Tight Ends in the NFL, with only one drop on over 88 targets throughout the last two seasons, he’s excelled as a contested-catch receiver posting 11 for the Lions just a year ago. He’s been able to work in the slot, in line, and out wide proving that he is a versatile weapon for whoever is his signal caller.

When Jamin Davis was asked to defend whoever was out of the slot, whether it was while they were in zone, he got out leveraged rather quickly before getting to his spot, and in man, the same results occurred. As for Cole Holcomb, he was excellent in coverage last week allowing just one catch for 7 yards, earning a grade from Pro Football Focus of 71.0 as a coverage defender.

Though both have had their ups and downs in coverage, neither of Washington’s primary backers are stout in coverage. Both have immense holes in their game and both can be taken advantage of, and schemed up to look like a mess when defending the pass.

For both of Washington‘s linebackers, they will be facing a Tight End that can really attack the teeth of this defense at the second level, no matter where he’s positioned on the field. For a quarterback like Jared Goff, who requires a security blanket, we’ve seen over the last season and one game that he’s comfortable with finding the Iowa alum wherever he’s at, and has no problems with feeding him the football, when needed.

Matchup #3: Jared Goff vs. Carson Wentz

Though these two will not see each other face-to-face on the field, the quarterback duel between these two guys, picks one and two in the 2016 NFL Draft, will be something to watch.

Since the 2021 season, Carson Wentz has been the better player between the two, ranking higher in EPA, Success Rate, and Air Yards, among other metrics. Yet in head-to-head meetings, Carson Wentz has not defeated Goff.

Of course, many more things go into football than just a head-to-head matchup, but these two will be forever linked to one another, with neither player still on the original team that picked them.

Both Goff and Wentz have limitations that make their team’s ceiling only so high with them under center, but both have proven that they belong in the NFL. Goff may not be the beautiful deep-ball thrower or efficient machine that he was under Sean McVay but he’s still shown flashes of that ilk with far less talent around him as a Lion.

In the case of Carson Wentz, he tries to do too much and doesn’t live by the “live for another play” mentality. He’ll have some turnover-worthy throws, but he’ll also “risk it for the biscuit” at a moment’s notice. Fumbles can be an issue, but he checks all the physical tools under the sun to be the franchise QB you all would want and need.

These two signal-callers are in different landing spots instead of where they originally came from, but both are looking to leave their mark with their new teams. The more efficient quarterback will lead their team to victory on Sunday, not the one that makes the Mahomes-level throws, but the one that can keep the football clean and attack defenses at the first and second level on a consistent and productive basis.

You can check out the odds for all of this week’s games courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, and we’ll be bringing you plenty of coverage of this one throughout the week.

Poll

Which matchup will you be watching for?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Okudah vs. McLaurin
    (226 votes)
  • 31%
    Wentz vs. Goff
    (213 votes)
  • 35%
    Hockenson vs. Davis/Holcomb
    (242 votes)
681 votes total Vote Now

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.