While both the Washington Football Team and Los Angeles Chargers finished last season with losing records, their Week 1 matchup for 2021 in Maryland is intriguing because it features the 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in WFT's Chase Young and Offensive Rookie of the Year in QB Justin Herbert of the Bolts, who opened as 1-point favorites on the NFL odds.
Ron Rivera was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year with the Carolina Panthers, but Rivera might have done his best job ever last season with the Washington Football Team in leading it to a shocking NFC East Division title – albeit with a 7-9 record. It will remain the Washington Football Team at least one more season and Rivera's club has an Over/Under win total of 8 at William Hill Sportsbook with a new starting quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Alex Smith was 5-1 as Washington's starting QB during the 2020 regular season and won NFL Comeback Player of the Year but was not brought back and has retired. Dwyane Haskins was 1-5 as a starter and was released late last season; the 2019 first-round bust is now in Pittsburgh. Kyle Allen was 1-3 as a 2020 starter and is back but might be third string behind the new addition Fitzpatrick and playoff breakout star Taylor Heinicke, who got an extension.
The 38-year-old Fitzpatrick already is the only quarterback in NFL history to start and throw touchdowns with eight different teams and now will get to do so with a ninth. Fitz is 59-86-1 in his career as a starter and was 4-3 last year with the Miami Dolphins while also relieving Tua Tagovailoa a few times.
"FitzMagic" will be Washington's 32nd starting quarterback since it won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. He's on a one-year deal and Washington only signed him after losing out on a trade for Matthew Stafford (and in theory for Deshaun Watson).
The WFT has upgraded the offense around Fitz with the additions of receivers Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries in free agency. Rivera knows Samuel well from their Panthers days, and Samuel had a career-best 77 receptions for 851 yards last season with Carolina. He's a big-play threat who also will run the ball at times (41 carries for 200 yards and two TDs last year) and will serve as a No. 2 to Terry McLaurin. Humphries is simply veteran depth who can play in the slot if he can stay healthy.
Washington's defense was one of the NFL's best in 2020 behind Young and should continue to dominate. Young, the first Washington player to win the DROY award, finished his first season with 44 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and four passes defensed. The big offseason addition on that side of the ball was former Bengals cornerback William Jackson. He'll slide in for Ronald Darby, who left in free agency for Denver.
The Football Team's 2021 schedule is ranked as the 15th-toughest in the league as its 17 opponents – a visit to Buffalo is the 17th game -- were a combined 136-134-2 last season.
Washington Football Team trends/William Hill Sportsbook odds
- 2020 record: 7-9 (8-6-2 against the spread, 5-10-1 Over/Under)
- 2021 strength of schedule rank: 15th (opponents' combined winning percentage of .504)
- 2021 Over/Under win total: 8
- SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 6.8
- Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +6000
- To win NFC: +2800
- To win NFC East: +300
- To make playoffs: No -200, yes +170
- NFL MVP odds: Chase Young +10000
Washington Football Team Schedule
Week 1 vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Bolts have dropped four of past five at Washington, last visiting in 2013
Week 2 vs. New York Giants (TNF): Washington is 0-3 SU & ATS in past three at home after 23-20 loss in 2020
Week 3 at Buffalo Bills: Added 17th opponent; Washington 0-4 SU & ATS past four in Buffalo (24-9 loser in 2019)
Week 4 at Atlanta Falcons: Falcons have won past three at home in the series, last 25-19 in 2015
Week 5 vs. New Orleans Saints: Oddly, the Over has hit in seven straight matchups at home vs. Saints
Week 6 vs. Kansas City Chiefs: WFT is 3-0 SU & ATS in past three home meetings, last in 2013
Week 7 at Green Bay Packers: WFT last visited Lambeau in 2019 and lost 20-15
Week 8 at Denver Broncos: Washington 4-1 ATS in past five in Denver but was blown out last meeting (2013)
Week 9 BYE
Week 10 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Washington lost 31-23 at home to the champion Bucs in last season's wild-card round
Week 11 at Carolina Panthers: Carolina visited Maryland in Week 16 last year and lost 20-13
Week 12 vs. Seattle Seahawks (MNF): Seattle visited Maryland last year and failed to cover in 20-15 victory
Week 13 at Las Vegas Raiders: WFT's first visit to Las Vegas; Raiders are 0-3 SU & ATS in past three at home in series
Week 14 vs. Dallas Cowboys: WFT was slight home dog last year but rolled to 25-3 win
Week 15 at Philadelphia Eagles: Philly's three-game home winning streak in series ended last year in 20-14 loss
Week 16 at Dallas Cowboys (SNF): WFT ended four-game skid in Dallas with 41-16 rout last season
Week 17 vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Philly's three-game road SU & ATS winning streak ended in 27-17 loss last year
Week 18 at New York Giants: Washington is just 3-7 SU in past 10 trips to Giants, losing 20-19 in 2020
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