The Washington Football Team and Arizona Cardinals are coming off two of the biggest upset wins in Week 1 of the NFL. Both defeating heavily favored division rivals, nobody expected both these teams to face off in Week 2 at 1-0. Washington and Arizona both won sloppy games and displayed vastly different strengths and weaknesses. Which team comes out on top, what are the key match-ups, and what do our Washington analysts predict the final score to be? Find out in this Washington vs. Arizona Week 2 preview.
Washington vs Arizona: Week 2 preview
Arizona Cardinals breakdown
To no-one’s surprise, the Cardinals’ two best offensive weapons in Week 1 were 2019 first overall pick QB Kyler Murray and recently acquired WR DeAndre Hopkins. Murray led Arizona in rushing and is currently eighth in the NFL in total rushing yards. Hopkins is currently third in the NFL in receiving yards and tied first in receptions.
Murray is an electric playmaker capable of burning defense on the ground or through the air, and he showed it against a strong 49ers defense. Behind Hopkins, the Arizona receiving corps is strong, with players like Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. On the ground, they have Kenyan Drake who finished the 2019 season on fire, but was not very effective in the Cardinals’ Week 1 game.
On defense, the Cardinals are far less threatening. Chandler Jones is one of the games’ elite pass rushers, but other than him there’s no one on the Cardinals front seven that should be considered anything better than above average. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips had a strong season in Buffalo last year with 9.5 sacks, but nearly a third of those came in one game and it speaks volumes that Buffalo was willing to let him walk in free agency. Phillips had also never produced more than two sacks in a season before last year.
Arizona spent the eighth overall selection on Isaiah Simmons in this past draft but he struggled against San Francisco, mostly covering running backs and tight-ends, the exact role the Cardinals selected him to fill. Where the Cardinals are best on defense is in the secondary. Patrick Peterson is still a strong cover cornerback and sophomore Byron Murphy is developing into one of the top young cornerbacks in the game. Meanwhile safety Budda Baker was recently made the highest-paid safety in NFL history for a reason.
Washington’s offense was not great on Sunday but they did do two things very well. Firstly, they took advantage of the opportunities they were given by the defense. Washington scored 14 points off turnovers in Week 1. Secondly, they took care of the football. Washington currently leads the NFL in turnover differential at +3.
Dwayne Haskins came through when Washington needed him, but he needs to be better from the get-go if Washington is to start the season 2-0. Haskins didn’t start performing well until the final drive of the first half. Even then, he was shaky from time to time. Hopefully, it was just Week 1 nerves and a lack of preseason, because if that Haskins returns to the field it will be a cause for concern.
Washington’s offense as a whole was weak against Philadelphia, but the talent on the Eagles defense is dramatically better than the defense of Arizona. Expect Washington’s running backs, specifically Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, to have huge games. They’re weapons that can attack both on the ground and through the air, and that’s where Arizona’s defense is most vulnerable. In Week 1 San Francisco running backs had nine receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Expect the team to also try and get Terry McLaurin more involved with forced targets like screens and timing routes.
On defense, it’s no secret Washington has one of the premier defensive fronts in the NFL. They lead the league in sacks, pressures, and QB hits. If Washington wants to win, they’ll need to get to Murray. Pressuring him won’t be enough, they’ll need to take him to the ground or they run the risk of getting burned by his legs. Expect defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to dial up some pressures to prevent Murray from getting comfortable.
Washington is going to struggle with the Cardinals’ receivers. The best they can do is hope to contain them. Similar to Week 1, the game could come down to who wins the turnover battle. Getting after Murray and forcing him into errant passes will be Washington’s best hope at leaving with a victory.
Match-Ups to watch
Murray vs Washington’s linebackers
It will be up to the Washington linebacking group to ensure Murray doesn’t defeat the team with his legs. If Murray is able to slip away from the defensive line, the linebackers must be there to minimize the damage. Expect Washington to use a QB spy early and often against the Cardinals.
Washington running backs vs Cardinals’ defense
As I mentioned earlier, Washington’s biggest mismatch will be their talented pass-catching backs against the Cardinals’ susceptible defense. The 49ers were able to shred Arizona with their backs in the passing game, and Washington should try to replicate the success with Gibson and McKissic.
Washington defensive line vs Arizona offensive line
There’s a good chance this will be a common theme for each weekly preview. The Washington defensive line is the strength of the team and was the main reason they upset the Eagles. If Washington can get after Murray the same way they got after Carson Wentz, then there’s a very good chance Washington can win the game.
Washington and Arizona’s Week 2 match-up is as interesting as they come. Despite an impressive showing from Washington’s defense in Week 1, the Cardinals are still overwhelming favorites. Hot off a win against San Francisco, Murray will look to beat Washington with his arm and his legs. Can Washington’s offense find a rhythm and will it be through their two pass-catching backs who were quiet in Week 1? What do our Washington analysts see happening this week?
Oli Hodgkinson: Arizona 31-28 Washington
Ian Cummings: Arizona 37-27 Washington
Matt Valdovinos: Arizona 27-24 Washington