The Washington Football Team vs. Denver Broncos game on Sunday afternoon is a tale of two talented teams free of quality quarterback play. We saw good performances early from Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos offense, but that disappeared in a flash of light after the Jets game in Week 3. The Football Team lost Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1, and the offense has been putrid since. But it’s each of their underwhelming defenses that really shocks us. How are these defenses so bad when they were so hyped heading into the 2021 NFL season?
Washington Football Team vs. Denver Broncos storylines
Washington and Denver aren’t short for storylines heading into Sunday. Washington’s defense was hailed as the next great unit that could propel their middling offense to a playoff berth, while the Broncos’ secondary looked like one of the best in recent memory. But we shouldn’t just ignore the hilariously sad stories we heard of “Mr. Snyder” this past week, either.
The quarterback play is a struggle for both teams
We didn’t expect much from the four quarterbacks that had the potential to play for these two teams in 2021. However, since Week 4 (when the Broncos got out of their FCS schedule and started playing some real football teams), both Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke have played like bottom-third quarterbacks in a league dominated by awful rookie quarterback play.
I don’t have much faith in the prospects of Drew Lock. But at some point, making the switch makes sense, because if anything, the Broncos should try to show he has some value. There will be a few QB-needy teams in the offseason, and given the weak 2022 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks, reclamation projects might be in vogue.
Heinicke is a tremendous story, but he’s a limited QB. He lacks the requisite arm talent to consistently succeed at the NFL level, and his high-risk attitude breeds mistakes when paired with his arm.
With Fitzpatrick’s return for 2021 in question, it appears any hope the Football Team has in a back-door Wild Card spot is gone.
Both defenses are bad, despite having an abundance of talent
Nobody is worse on third down than Washington. In fact, nobody is particularly close to being as tragic as the Football Team. Their 56.86% rate on third down is more than 5 percentage points worse than Miami at No. 31. That 5 percentage-point difference is the same as the gap between the 28th-ranked team (CLE) and the 16th-ranked team (TEN).
A team with all that defensive line talent shouldn’t struggle on third down. A club with William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller performing that poorly? That’s borderline unbelievable. WFT is also dead last in scoring defense and 25th in net yards allowed per play.
They’re 15th in defensive success rate, which is where you’d expect their low-end results to be heading into the season. But their propensity to allow explosive plays and conversions on third down make them one of the worst defenses in the league.
Meanwhile, the Broncos can’t stop anyone through the air, which is a terrifying development after given their defensive backfield appeared to be one of the best I’d seen in recent memory.
Losing both of their linebackers doesn’t help their overall cause. However, Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson aren’t necessarily the best coverage linebackers when healthy anyway.
The Broncos also aren’t rushing the passer well enough, and their lack of communication in zone coverage on the back end has resulted in some late errors and big plays. They’ve also suffered from multiple “almost” plays that could have epically swung the narrative surrounding the defense.
Unfortunately, Denver still struggles to prevent successful plays to opposing offenses, ranking 24th in both passing and rushing success rates. Patrick Surtain II has been the only true bright spot in the secondary.
We must save Terry McLaurin, one way or another
Terry McLaurin is one of the smoothest receivers in the NFL. He possesses the ability to take the top off defenses, elevate over the middle of the field, and separate with loose hips and explosive change of direction.
But his quarterback keeps trying to kill him. And his lack of efficient targets could hurt his earning potential if Washington doesn’t fix their QB issues in 2022.
McLaurin was already an older prospect when he left Ohio State. Now in his third NFL season, he’s already 26 years old. To put that in perspective, DJ Moore is in his fourth campaign and is only 24.
You never want to see a talented player wasted. But more importantly, you don’t want to see them consistently put in positions to be decapitated over the middle of the field. McLaurin will continue to try and make plays, and he’ll keep putting his body at risk to do so.
Hopefully, he can soon be paired with a quarterback that appreciates him.
Washington vs. Broncos betting line and game prediction
The Broncos are currently 3-point favorites vs. the Football Team. They are at home, and Denver has the perception of a true home-field advantage. Thus, Vegas seems to think this should be an even game in a neutral setting.
I am less convinced about that, simply because I don’t see the Broncos defense struggling as mightily against Washington’s offense. It won’t be a high-scoring affair, but I do think the return of Jerry Jeudy will be enough for Denver’s passing attack.
Washington vs. Broncos prediction: Broncos 21, Football Team 17