After a trade deadline that saw the Washington Commanders trade away both of their starting edge rushers, they appear to have been clear sellers. In a duel of young quarterbacks with defensive head coaches and struggling teams, let’s see what Sunday afternoon has to offer.
The Patriots continue to have the regular linemen on the injury report, Trent Brown only practiced on Friday and is listed as questionable with an ankle and knee injury. Despite constantly battling injuries this season, Brown has consistently played and played at a high level. A struggling receiver group gets worse as DeVante Parker will be out as he missed practice all week with a concussion. Offensive tackle Calvin Anderson will be out as he battles an illness, he did not practice all week.
Washington has a pretty clear injury report, with one player who stands out. Receiver Curtis Samuel did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, leaving his status for Sunday up in the air. Sam Howell already struggles with pressure, as he has been under the most pressure by far this season facing pressure on 139 dropbacks. That figure is the highest of any quarterback this season by 19 dropbacks. Similarly, Howell has been sacked 41 times per PFF, the most of any quarterback this season by 13. Being without Samuel would only hurt these figures more.
The most interesting matchup here is whether Washington can get pressure with their backup edge defenders. They traded away both Montez Sweat and Chase Young, opening the door for Casey Toohill, and James Smith-Williams, who are the likely fill-ins. Washington still has a great interior duo with Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, who should have a good game against a struggling Cole Strange and Sidy Sow. Also, I’m done talking about how New England’s receivers really cannot create separation, when that changes we will revisit the subject. Mac Jones also just needs to play better, yes it’s a bad situation but Jones is not doing himself any favours. Jones has 17 turnover worthy plays already this year, a career high and his next highest is 15 over the course of 566 dropbacks in his rookie season. For percentages, Jones had a 2.5 turnover worthy play percentage in 2021 and 2.7 percent in 2022. Through half of 2023, Jones’ turnover worthy play percentage has absolutely skyrocketed to 5.7 percent, the fourth highest this season, and the people in front of him are Gardner Minshew, Tyson Bagent, and P.J. Walker. Yikes.
New England’s defense has a great opportunity to make some noise this game. Howell likes to hold onto the ball and invite pressure, giving Keion White, Anfernee Jennings, and Josh Uche the chance to make some impact plays. Washington’s offensive line is fine, making a battle of fine against fine in the trenches. If Samuel misses time, New England’s sneaky good secondary has a chance to focus on Terry McLaurin and shut him down. Jabrill Peppers has had a great year, an underrated year that is not getting talked about enough. Peppers is allowing a completion percentage of 60.9 percent, yards per reception of 6.7 and a longest reception of 25 yards, all career bests. New England has a bargain deal with Peppers only counting $3.4 million against the cap this year and $5.5 million next year.
Prediction: 27-24 New England Patriots
We’re taking New England to win this game. First I’m going to this game and want to see a win while also being right, can take care of two birds with one stone here. Also, New England’s defense has some good pieces despite injuries, and Washington doesn’t have a real difference-maker on either side of the ball after their trade deadline moves that indicate a clear rebuilding effort, or just unwillingness to pay homegrown talent.
2023 Prediction Record: 6-2