Washington's QB conundrum when looking at 2021 schedule originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Football Team won seven games in 2020 en route to a division title, but upon close examination of their victories, it can be hard to get too excited.
In order, Washington faced the following quarterbacks in their seven wins:
Andy Dalton/Ben DiNucci
Joe Burrow/Ryan Finley
Jalen Hurts/Nate Sudfeld
That is a list of mostly bad quarterbacks. Burrow was the best passer they faced last season, and he was a rookie, and he got hurt in the second half of that game.
So, what does that mean? And how does that impact 2021?
Well, Washington will face most, if not all, of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this fall. Like who? Here's a quick list:
Aaron Rodgers (probably)
In short, the competition appears to be taking a massive step forward in 2021 from the passers Washington faced in 2020. That, however, may not tell the whole story.
Keep in mind that Washington also had largely awful quarterback play in 2020. The Football Team started four QBs - Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke. Few teams start four quarterbacks in one season and go on to win their division, no matter how bad the competition in the division.
Haskins was released late in the season. Smith retired in the offseason. That's indicative of the level of play. NFL scouts will say that Allen and Heinicke are likely career backups.
In comes Ryan Fitzpatrick, he of the big beard and many nicknames. If he's good, Washington could be quite good.
They were almost good in 2020 with a big hole at the game's most important position.
The defense is real and added key components in cornerback William Jackson and rookie linebacker Jamin Davis. Plus defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis should be back from injury.
That's the dilemma with evaluating Washington's 2020 season. The defense played well, but the quarterbacks on the other side of their wins were mostly awful. But Washington's quarterback play was also awful.
If Fitzpatrick can deliver - and his advanced metrics in the last two seasons suggest he can - then watch out for Washington this Fall.
Anyway, here's the prediction. For now. The official prediction comes out in August.
Washington vs Chargers (1-0) - Ron Rivera's squad opens the season with a win. Defense gets going much earlier in the year than offense, so Chase Young will win this duel with Justin Herbert.
Washington vs Giants (1-1) - Don't really know why but the Giants have Washington's number. Things don't always make sense in the NFL.
Washington @ Buffalo (2-1) - After a tough home loss to New York, and then a nice break after a Thursday night game, Washington gets the improbable win in western New York. Remember, Bills coach Sean McDermott came up in the NFL coaching under Rivera.
Washington @ Atlanta (3-1) - This is a win. Falcons are in a weird quasi-rebuild mode, and that's a bad place to be.
Washington vs New Orleans (4-1) - Another win. Drew Brees is gone and thinks might not look the same with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. That Saints defense is tough though.
Washington vs Kansas City (4-2) - Loss. Mahomes.
Washington @ Green Bay (4-3) - Loss. Rodgers. (Maybe)
Washington @ Denver (5-3) - Win. Denver can't score. Their QB situation is about as good as Washington's was in 2020.
Washington vs Tampa Bay (5-4) - A rematch of the 2020 Wild Card game, where Washington and Heinicke gave the Bucs a good fight. Eventually, Tom Brady pulled it out, and he does it again here.
Washington @ Carolina (6-4) - Rivera ain't losing his return to Charlotte. Not happening.
Washington vs Seattle (6-5) - Loss. Russ.
Washington @ Las Vegas (7-5) - This trip will be wild with a million Washington fans descending on the Strip, but as for the action on the field, the defense wins this one.
Washington vs Dallas (8-5) - Here comes the meat grinder. Whatever team of the Cowboys, Giants and Washington is the most healthy by the time this stretch of five straight division wins starts will win the NFC East. Washington wins this one.
Washington @ Philadelphia (9-5) - The Eagles are a mess. New coach, front office discord, no answer at QB.
Washington @ Dallas (9-6) - Dak Prescott will not be swept this season.
Washington vs Philadelphia (10-6) - Repeat: The Eagles are a mess. Win.
Washington @ New York Giants (10-7) - I'll predict a win over the Giants when I see a win over the Giants.
Bonus prediction - Washington makes the playoffs but doesn't win the division. The team will win its first playoff game since 2006 through a Wild Card victory.