The Washington Commanders started off the year 2-0 but have sinced dropped two straight games. That’ll certainly get a fan base’s feathers ruffled, but at least the Commanders have won a couple games this year before their recent skid, the Chicago Bears, of course, are 0-4 on the season and their losing streak has reached 14 games, which is tied for the 19th longest losing streak in NFL history.
To get our fans ready for this Thursday night tilt, we sat down with our sister site that covers the Commanders, Hogs Haven, to get some insight into the Commanders season.
1. Let’s start with Sam Howell. He bounced back nicely against Philadelphia after a rough one the week before. Are Washington fans surprised with his play thus far or was this expected?
I think that after winning his first three games, fans were most surprised by Howell’s performance against the Bills, which was wretched. It’s no surprise that the Bills are one of the best teams in the league, and they’re particularly rough on young QBs, and Howell was no exception. His game play against the Eagles showed an adaptability both on his and on offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s part. The Bills took away Howell’s deep options in week 3 and ate him alive to the tune of 9 nine sacks. Against the Eagles the play calling allowed Howell to get rid of the ball much more quickly, slowly chipping away at the field.
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that Howell has impressed - particularly for a late round pick - and that there’s a lot of hope in Washington that he could be the long-term QB we’ve been looking for an incredible amount of time. That said, I think most fans recognize that he’s going to have growing pains. But, they want to see an ability to learn from mistakes, which he did against the Eagles.
2. Eric Bieniemy is also receiving plenty of praise for how well this offense looks through four games. How much has his presence boosted the offense?
After weeks 1 and 2, Washington fans would have said “a heck of a lot.” After week 3, some thought it might be a mirage. In week 4, against the Eagles, Bieniemy seemed to be on the right track again. He devised a plan that worked out well for most of the game, and Howell executed it to near perfection. Overall, Bieniemy seems to be a significant upgrade to Scott Turner, and seems to have the ability to recognize what isn’t working and change up his scheme to adapt. This is going to be a really tough question to answer fully until the end of the season though.
3. The biggest mismatch on paper to me is going to be the Bears offensive line against Washington’s defensive line. Has the front four been as good on the field as they have been on paper? How has Chase Young look after the long recovery period?
Well, that’s encouraging. The front four has been fairly good, but they haven’t been as menacing as many have hoped. That’s, in part, a function of Jack Del Rio’s conservative defensive scheme, which blitzes rarely and largely counts on the front four to bring pressure. The tackles, Jon Allen and Daron Payne, can be forces to be reckoned with though, and if Chicago’s interior lineman aren’t able to handle them, it could be a very long afternoon for Justin Fields.
Chase Young has three sacks in three games so far, and looks like he’s pretty fully recovered from his knee injury. I suspect both he and Montez Sweat will be primarily focused on containing Justin Fields in the pocket, so - to my mind - it would be possible for him to have a great game and not collect a single sack against the Bears. It’s going to be interesting to see how the match up plays out.
4. We in Chicago have been suffering through ownership that really seems to struggle with how to put good people in place in football operations and it’s led to the Bears struggling most seasons. Dan Snyder was obviously a rough owner to deal with as a fan of the franchise, how difficult was it as a fan to cheer for this team with him atop the franchise?
Rooting for Washington with Dan Snyder in charge was impossible for thousands of fans - as evidenced by their quick return to training camp and the stadium after his unceremonious sale. For the rest of us, it required a feat of mental juggling that no fan should have to endure. Most of the fanbase despised Snyder, for his off-the-field scandals, his roster meddling, and the team’s atrocious record under his 20+ year tenure (~.400).
Snyder’s banishment was the equivalent of a Super Bowl win for many of the fans, and sufficiently joyous for some to consider the season a success regardless of record. It’s unfortunate to hear the ownership situation is so bad in Chicago, but it seems to be the nature of many legacy ownership groups (e.g., Fords, Bidwells, Irsays) that often the offspring/spouses/siblings are no better at running a team than their inept ancestors were. Perhaps the next Halas in line will be more competent.
5. Washington is favored in this game, but the number is rapidly growing larger. Do you have a best bet for the game?
I think that Washington will win the game, 21-10. The Bears seem to be a team in disarray at this point, and Washington finally seems to be pulling things together. This is a game the Commanders have to win if they’re serious about making the playoffs this season.
The Commanders are currently favored by 6.5 points, a number that has consistently risen since it opened. Gamblers are still coming in heavy on the Bears opponent, despite the Bears pushing or covering the number against the Broncos (it was 3 or 3.5 when the game kicked).
Washington has played competitive football. They have one common opponent on the season, both have faced the Denver Broncos. Washington won the game in Denver, Chicago lost the game at home. If things continue down the current road, Washington would seem like the play here.
And as always, if you want to place a little wager on the game, DraftKings Sportsbook has you covered.