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Commanders fans predict a good start to the season and a playoff appearance to cap the ‘23 campaign

Survey results!!

NFL-Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Commanders Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The start of the NFL season is just around the corner. On Thursday, September 7th, the world-champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Detroit Lions for the inaugural game of the 2023 regular season.

Washington kicks off its ‘23 season with a home game against the Arizona Cardinals. With the Cards in full and seemingly unabashed tank mode, it looks as if the NFL tried to give Commanders fans and new owners a gift with this game — an opportunity to celebrate the new Josh Harris era at home without much fear of a loss to throw cold water on the party.

While no NFL team can ever be overlooked, and no game should ever be taken lightly, the Cardinals just released Colt McCoy, who had been the presumed Week 1 starter prior to his release. The coaches will be choosing between 5th round rookie QB Clayton Tune and 28-year-old Joshua Dobbs, who was last seen by Commanders fans as the backup to Deshaun Watson in the first preseason game. Dobbs was traded to the Cardinals last week. I will never call any NFL game an automatic win; I’ll simply say that if the Commanders lose this home opener against the Cardinals, it would signal huge problems for Washington and a very long and ugly season ahead.

After that, the schedule gets tougher.

In Week 2, the Commanders travel to Denver to take on the Broncos, who weren’t very good last year, led by QB Russell Wilson, who also wasn’t very good last year.

This will not be the 2022 Nathaniel Hackett-coached Broncos, however. Instead, Washington will be facing a team coached by Sean Payton in a stadium that has never been kind to visiting teams. Many observers are expecting the team and its quarterback to respond well to the coaching change and to be much improved in 2023. With that in mind, I’m happy to be facing this team in Week 2 instead of December or January, when the coaching will have had more time to take hold and the conditions at Mile High Stadium would be even less inviting.

In Week 3, the Commanders are home against the Bills, a team that many people believe will contend for the 2023 AFC Championship, followed by a road trip to play the Eagles, who actually did win the 2022 NFC Championship.

In this week’s Reacts survey, we asked Hogs Haven readers to predict the team’s record at the end of those 4 games.

The results are generally positive, if not quite rosy.

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More than 60% of those responding to the survey predict a 2-2 record. With another 26% of fans predicting a 3-1 result, over 90% of those surveyed feel confident that the Commanders will finish the first quarter of the 2023 season at .500 or better.

Based on comments in the survey article, fans are most confident about winning the home opener against the Cardinals, and there’s a lot of optimism that the team is up to the challenge of playing in Denver a week later.

Nearly everyone seems to think the Bills may be more than the Commanders can handle, even at home in September, though 4% of fans were bold enough to say that Washington would be a perfect 4-0.

The difference between those who predict two losses and those predicting only one seems to be the Week 4 visit to Philadelphia. No one should forget what happened last year, when Ron Rivera took his team to Philly for a Monday Night Football game against the 8-0 Eagles.

(Spoiler Alert: Washington won that game 32-21, with former-Eagle Casey Toohill putting the final nail in the coffin with a fumble recovery for a defensive touchdown as time expired)

Plenty of fans see a similar outcome with the upcoming visit to Lincoln Financial Field; that’s where most of the 3-1 predictions come from.

How about the playoffs?

In a 17-game season, 9 wins is the usual cutoff for being in contention for a wildcard slot, while a 10-win season will usually assure a team of a spot in the postseason.

Hogs Haven readers are pretty bullish about the team’s prospects of getting to the playoffs in 2023.

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It seems clear that the Kool Aid is flowing. More than three out of four people responding to this week’s survey see Washington as a 2023 playoff team after the Commanders finished in last place in a tough NFC East in 2022, a half-game out of playoff qualification with an 8-8-1 record.

Much of the reasoning behind the optimism is that the team achieved its .500 record with bad OL play and often very poor quarterback play a year ago. The feeling is that 2nd year QB Sam Howell provides an upgrade to a team that returns its top-5 defense nearly intact, and which has done enough on offense by firing Scott Turner and hiring Eric Bieniemy to score more points and win more games.

An improvement of just a game or two versus last year’s final record should be enough to get the team into the postseason. Of course, Washington will have only 8 home games this season (they had 9 in 2022), and opponents after Week 1 spent the offseason trying to get batter too.

Washington fans are riding a wave of optimism that began with the sale of the team in August. Coaches and players know that they’ve got an excited fan base ready to visibly support them in a way that hasn’t been the case for many years. The team has a young dynamic quarterback, one of the more talented wide receiving units in the NFL, a solid group of running backs, and a defense that should be capable of holding most opponents under 20 points. The coaching staff has been bolstered and training camp had a completely new feel about it.

Optimism is riding high in the nation’s capital with football season less than two weeks away.