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Scouting the Enemy: Washington Commanders

The Denver Broncos are set to battle the Washington Commanders this Sunday. Here is a deeper dive into Denver’s Week 2 foe.

NFL: SEP 10 Cardinals at Commanders Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Denver Broncos are 0-1 after Week 1. Their upcoming opponent, the Washington Commanders, enjoyed a victory last weekend and are 1-0.

If you thought the Broncos’ week one matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders was a must-win—you should feel the same about this one. Broncos Country will be destitute and inconsolable if the franchise fails to beat the Commanders at home this weekend.

An 0-2 start? Not ideal, especially with a lot of games ahead on the road and a much tougher schedule the way out. So what are the Broncos in store for this weekend? Let’s take a deeper look at the Commanders, some of their X-Factor players, and a final score prediction on my behalf.

2022 Washington Commanders Review

The Commanders were 6-8-1 and placed 4th in the NFC East in 2022. Their offense was 16th in the league in points scored and 25th in total yards. Their defense was a top unit, ranking 8th in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed.

2023 Offseason Moves and Acquisitions

The biggest headline for the Commanders this offseason was a change in ownership. Daniel Snyder is out and Josh Harris is in. It sure seems like Commanders fans are glad that Snyder is finally out of the picture moving forward.

The franchise had a full slate of draft picks and spent their first two selections bolstering their secondary by selecting Emmanuel Fobes and Jartavius Martin. Both of them are expected to make an impact early on in their rookie seasons and were smart additions to a squad whose defense ranked Top 10 in 2022.

Their free agent additions by in large flew under the radar, but I felt they did some good things on the market. They revamped their offensive line in free agency bringing in Andrew Wylie and Nick Gates to start and right tackle and center. Their defensive additions were highlighted by linebacker Cody Barton, who is now the new leader of their defense at middle linebacker.

The Commanders’ Offensive X-Factor — Sam Howell

Washington’s list of starting quarterbacks since the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 season is longer and looks even worse than what we have had to endure in the Mile High City.

Long-time veteran Jacoby Brissett is the team’s back up, but Ron Rivera and his staff decided to give the reigns to 2022 fifth-round pick Sam Howell. Maybe, just maybe—he can be the franchise’s future at the position. They can’t know unless they play him and that’s precisely what they are attempting to figure out.

I was a bit shocked when Howell fell to the fifth-round in the draft. I thought his tape looked solid and felt he was worthy of Top 100 consideration for teams needing a developmental option with starting potential. However, his 2021 campaign with the Tar Heels wasn’t as good as scouts and teams were hoping for which likely hampered his draft stock.

Nevertheless, Howell’s a hard-nosed competitor who can beat you on the ground with his mobility and make big plays down the field with his arm. The Commanders boast a good corps of wide receivers with Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel, so he has no shortage of options in the passing game.

That being said, I would imagine Howell will avoid Patrick Surtain’s side of the field and try and get the ball out to whoever he isn’t clamping down on the boundary. He doesn’t have significant game experience, but he had some pretty magical moments at Chapel Hill and has the ability to create something out of nothing.

The Broncos need to bring the heat and make Howell as uncomfortable as possible. He has a live arm and big-play ability. After Denver’s opening loss to start the season, I’m no longer sleeping on other teams and the players on their roster. That’s why I have him as their X-Factor for Sunday’s game.

The Commanders’ Defensive X-Factor — Jonathan Allen

The Commanders’ defensive line is no joke and they will pose a significant challenge for the Broncos’ offensive line. There is no doubt that Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz, and Bewn Powers are going to have to play a great game in order to give Russell Wilson the time he needs to throw and to jumpstart the running game.

Former Alabama standout Jonathan Allen is the name to watch this weekend. He has been the glue that holds their defensive front together over the past several seasons. His top-tier play has earned him back-to-back Pro-Bowl honors. Over the past two seasons, he has racked up 16.5 sacks, 127 tackles and 47 quarterback hits.

Allen might not get a lot of large-scale media praise, but in my eyes, he is one of the league’s best defensive lineman. Neutralizing his impact on the game will be paramount if the Broncos’ want to have success on offense. Don’t sleep on Allen, Broncos Country—he’s an absolutely game-wrecker.

Final Score Prediction

Broncos 27, Commanders 20.

What kind of fan would I be if I didn’t predict our beloved Broncos to win this weekend? Take this prediction to the bank or throw it in the trash. The choice is yours! Heading into Week 3 of the season, the Broncos will be a .500 ball club.

Here’s what I think happens. Their offense does a much better job moving the ball down the field in the passing game compared to Week 1. Not only that, Vance Joseph dials up some better pressure packages and their pass rush rattles the Commanders’ second-year signal caller and forces several turnovers.

How’s that for some optimism?