Washington Football Team Week 10 Preview: at Lions
By now, you have probably seen the world’s most frustrating stat: Daniel Jones is 4-0 against Washington and 1-16 against everyone else. Last Sunday’s mistake-filled game was agonizing to watch and Washington likely threw away whatever playoff hopes they had.
Going forward, the focus should shift back to player development instead of long-shot dreams of winning the NFC East. But players and coaches remain optimistic that Washington can be competitive for the next few games. This week, they travel to Detroit to play the Lions.
Week 10 Preview: at Lions
Three Things to Watch For:
1. Washington’s third starting quarterback this season – Alex Smith. Kyle Allen’s brutal ankle injury means Alex Smith will get his own audition down the stretch. There is a lot to unpack here. First, his return to the starting lineup is one of the most inspiring stories in sports today and makes him a slam dunk Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Second, starting him over Haskins signals that Haskins is almost certainly done in Washington, although he could get another starting look in later weeks. Third, it will be interesting to see if Smith pushes the offense and helps the team win. Against the Giants, he made some aggressive downfield throws but also tossed three picks. Aggressive and turnover prone were not words typically used to describe Smith before his injury. But if he helps the team win the next few games, things could get interesting. Smith is still signed for two more seasons at a relatively team-friendly price. If he looks good, the front office might consider keeping him as the starter next year and wait on drafting a QB. Smith gets his first audition this week.
2. Reviving the run game. Despite running very well against the Cowboys, Washington only had 9 carries against the Giants. Washington got down early thanks to some killer turnovers and leaned on a passing attack. This team does not have the ammo to win shoot outs and will need to key a stronger run game to keep the score low. Watch for Washington to have 20-25 carries and limit the number of Smith drop backs.
3. Defense creating turnovers. Against the Giants, Washington gave the ball away five times and the defense did not force any takeaways. Winning with a -5 turnover differential is very difficult (and Washington still only lost by a field goal). Committing five turnovers is rare, but the talent on Washington’s defense should be good for at least 1-2 turnovers a game. Given the team’s low firepower on offense, the defense needs to live up to their talent and force more mistakes to set up the offense with shorter fields.
Washington’s Cornerbacks vs. Marvin Jones Jr.
I cheated here a little bit. Jones can line up all over, so it is unclear which cornerback will be covering him most. But Matt Stafford likes to push the ball downfield and the Lions will probably not have their top receiver, Kenny Golladay, who is dealing with a hip issue. If Jones is held in tight coverage, it will force the Lions offense to lean more heavily on their running game. Adrian Peterson could have a revenge game but the Lions offensive line will struggle to open lanes against the Washington defensive line. Limiting Jones’ impact will be key to keeping a low score.
Injuries to Monitor:
Wednesday’s practice injury report was short. OT Saahdiq Charles and OL Ross Pierschbacher were held out and RB Antonio Gibson was limited. QB Kyle Allen is also out for the season, although his injury is apparently not as bad as it appeared and he should be healed by next season. A short injury report is always nice to see but Gibson being limited is worrisome. Hopefully he is dealing with something small and can see the field Sunday.
Game in Summary:
Detroit is a talent-poor team and has few blue-chip contributors. Their chances of winning are closely tied to Matt Stafford. If he has a good game, they will win; if the defense gets pressure and cover receivers well, they will lose. It sounds simple but Stafford is probably the most talented player in the matchup.
Despite the Giants game breaking my spirit, I will remain optimistic and predict a Washington win this week. The Lions were one of our few wins last season, and outside of getting Stafford back, there is little evidence the rest of the team has improved. Smith looks good at QB and Washington pulls out a low-scoring win.