The Washington Commanders were riding high after the season’s first two weeks. Optimism grew as the team surged to its first 2-0 record since 2011. In Week 3, however, the Buffalo Bills provided a much-needed wake-up call for the fanbase. As the emotional pendulum begins to swing wildly in the opposite direction now, it is vitally important to re-focus on the long-term view and the bigger picture. Things may not be quite as grim as they seem.
Commanders Must Focus on the Bigger Picture
Two Steps Backward
The Bills game was ugly. There is no way around it. Sam Howell regressed mightily from his sharp level of play in the first two weeks, making numerous head-scratching plays at crucial points of the game. The offensive line allowed an unfathomable nine sacks in Week 3, somehow magnifying an already-glaring weakness. To add insult to injury, the Washington defensive line was unable to make any impact in the game whatsoever. Josh Allen was given as much time as he needed to make decisions, and he wasn’t sacked once.
The Commanders could be headed for a second step back in Week 4. The team travels to Philadelphia to compete as heavy underdogs against the undefeated Eagles on their home field. If the Bills’ defensive line seemed overpowering, Philly’s will be devastating. General manager Howie Roseman added first-round rookies Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith to one of the best defenses in the league last season, and the returns have been impressive. The Washington Commanders are highly likely to fall to 2-2 this week, but it is very important to maintain their perspective on the bigger picture.
Washington might be staring down the barrel of a losing streak in the short term. Fortunately, the Commanders jumped out to an uncharacteristic two-win start to the season to the surprise of many doubters. If they hadn’t successfully completed dramatic comebacks against the Cardinals and Broncos, the team’s prognosis would be significantly damaged.
Apart from the Philadelphia games in weeks 4 and 8, however, the strength of schedule eases considerably. From weeks 5 through 7, the Commanders play the Bears, Falcons, and Giants. Their opponents from weeks 9 through 11 are the Patriots, Seahawks, and Giants again. Those six teams combine for an overall record of 7-11. Washington is fully capable of winning four or more of those six matchups, which would set up favorably for a playoff push to end the season.
From an even bigger picture perspective, the Commanders still have a lot to be excited about. The majority of this week’s pessimism has centered around the disappointing play from quarterback Sam Howell. More than anything, though, this was a result of unrealistically high expectations for the young signal-caller in his fourth game as an NFL starting quarterback. He threw four ill-advised interceptions, including two in the red zone, and has admitted that he needs to make better decisions.
Howell has an incredibly short memory and an abundance of self-awareness. Those are two traits of a quarterback, in addition to his rookie contract, that you can build an offense around. It was impractical to expect that he wouldn’t experience some road bumps early in his career. It’s more important to find out how he responds to them. Even if the Commanders fall short against the Eagles this weekend, it would be premature to jump to rash conclusions after a 2-2 start. Another winning streak could be right around the corner.
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