Washington had a tumultuous 2019 campaign, which spilled into this off-season when the organization finally changed its nickname and with the team releasing Derrius Guice in August after domestic violence charges surfaced against the former running back. Owner Daniel Snyder fired Jay Gruden after opening last season with five straight losses, and he fired GM Bruce Allen at the end of the season. Washington matched a franchise-worst record at 3-13 and it cashed at -800 odds to miss the playoffs. Snyder brought in Ron Rivera to change the losing culture this off-season, and the organization also finally dropped its controversial Redskins moniker after 87 years (I’m apologizing in advance if the nickname shows up in my articles down the road. Old habits die hard.).
Washington finished with a 6-10 against-the-spread record after finishing with an 0-4 overall mark in games decided by three scores or more and with a 3-3 record in one-score games. Washington ended the year with an 8-8 split in terms of totals after ranking dead last in points per game (16.6) and allowing the sixth-most points per game (27.2).
Washington’s 2020 win total (5) fell by a victory from last season after it finished with the second-worst record in the league. Washington fell below its 2019 win total with its 11th loss of the season in Week 15. Washington has +550 odds to end its four-year playoff drought and to reach the playoffs for just the sixth time under Snyder’s ownership in 22 seasons. Entering the season, I have Washington power rated as the 31st-best team in the NFL (+15000 to win Super Bowl LV), as the worst team in the NFC (+6000 to win the conference), and as the worst team in the NFC East (+1300).
|Opponent (spread if available)
|Philadelphia Eagles (+6.5)
|@Arizona Cardinals (+6.5)
|Los Angeles Rams
|@New York Giants (+4)
|New York Giants (-1)
|@Dallas Cowboys (+8)
|@Pittsburgh Steelers (+8.5)
|@San Francisco 49ers
Key Off-season Moves
Chase Young (DE)
Kendall Fuller (CB)
Antonio Gibson (RB)
Kyle Allen (QB)
Peyton Barber (RB)
Thomas Davis (LB)
Cody Latimer (WR)
Wes Schweitzer (OG)
Ronald Darby (CB)
Sean Davis (S)
J.D. McKissic (RB)
Trent Williams (OT, SF)
Ereck Flowers (OG, Mia)
Case Keenum (QB, Cle)
Chris Thompson (RB, Jax)
Quinton Dunbar (CB, Sea)
Jordan Reed (TE, FA)
Vernon Davis (TE, retired)
Josh Norman (CB, Buf)
Paul Richardson (WR, FA)
Caleb Brantley (DT, opted out)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
Washington is in a tough spot breaking in a new coaching staff during an off-season/preseason that’s been unlike any other in the history of the league. New HC Ron Rivera and his staff are in a tough spot this season, but Rivera brings plenty of valuable experience with him to Washington. He managed the 2017 Panthers through Jerry Richardson’s scandal and his eventual selling of the franchise, and Rivera dealt with the Cam Newton circus at times. Rivera won six or more games in each of his eight full seasons with the Panthers before Carolina fired him last year after a 5-7 start to the season.
Rivera has had the good fortune of working with Cam every year during his head coaching career. This will be Rivera’s first season without Cam on his roster, and second-year QB Dwayne Haskins has a lot of work to do to become a trusted NFL starting QB. Haskins doesn’t have a whole lot of help at receiver outside of Terry McLaurin so this offense is going to lean heavily on its backfield and on its improving defense. They landed the most-prized defender available in this year’s draft in Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, who gives Washington four defenders along its front line who have been selected in the first round in the last four years. Washington also revamped their secondary by bringing in Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, and Sean Davis. Washington did trade Quinton Dunbar this off-season, but its secondary is in much better shape after releasing Josh Norman.
Ultimately, Haskins is going to have to continue to make incremental improvements from last season if Washington has any hopes of going over its 2020 win total. Rivera is going to play a grind-it-out style by leaning on his defense and his rushing attack in hopes that his young quarterback makes enough plays to pull out a couple of low-scoring affairs in the final minutes. McLaurin looks poised for a breakout campaign and Steven Sims is flying under the radar, and they’ll look to help Haskins reach a new level in his second season.
Washington didn’t catch many breaks when it comes to its schedule. It will need to make hay in Weeks 6-11 (@NYG, Dal, bye, NYG, Cin, @Det) if it wants to go over its season win total with four matchups against teams lined at six and a half wins or fewer. Washington got friendly matchups against the Lions and the Panthers for its two extra NFC contests this season.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
Washington has the lowest win total in the NFC and the second-lowest win total in the league, ahead of only the Jaguars. The Football Team is rightfully lined as one of the league’s worst teams since their roster is devoid of top-end talent and overall depth. This franchise has been mismanaged for decades under owner Dan Snyder, and Ron Rivera will have his hands full just trying to get this team headed down the right path in Year One.
The NFL is a passing league at the end of the day, and Washington projects to have the worst passing attacks heading into the 2020 season. Dwayne Haskins has a long way to go to become even a competent starting NFL QB, and he’s not going to get a ton of help from his receiving corps outside of Terry McLaurin and, to a lesser extent, Steven Sims. Washington will need to keep close with their opponents this year because this passing attack will have a tough time coming back from any deficits that are larger than eight or more points.
Washington finished with a miserable 3-13 record last season, but it can’t even expect some positive regression in terms of turnovers and better fortune in tight games. The Football Team finished at .500 in one-score games last season with a 3-3 mark, and they actually finished with a +1 turnover differential. Among the 14 teams to finish with a positive turnover differential, Washington was the only team that failed to reach at least seven wins last season.
Washington has the eighth-toughest schedule and the second-toughest slate in the NFC East based on 2020 win totals (per Sharp Football). It starts the season with four home games against teams lined at eight and a half wins or more (Phi, Bal, LAR, Dal) before its Week 8 bye. Washington then has a brutal three-game road trip in Weeks 12-14 (@Dal on Thanksgiving, @Pit, @SF). Washington and the rest of the NFC East drew tough matchups with its crossover games with the AFC North and NFC West.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Terry McLaurin: receiving yards (1050.5), most receiving yards (+2500)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1060)
Best-case Scenario: The rising second-year WR finishes among the league leaders in target share as he's clearly the top option in this thin Washington receiving corps.
Worst-case Scenario: Scary Terry is only as good as the quality of targets that he sees, and Dwayne Haskins can’t deliver the goods as he fails to make incremental progress in his second season.
Best Bets and Leans
I’ll most likely be looking to bet under the total in Washington’s games this season, and I’ll be looking to take the points with the Football Team when they’re big dogs, as well. Washington doesn’t have many strengths heading into this season, but I envision Ron Rivera going to a grind-it-out style to play to the strengths of his team, which are a slightly above-average defense and a slightly above-average rushing attack. We’ll see if Dwayne Haskins can make enough plays to actually win games in lower-scoring affairs, but Rivera will try his best to level the playing field by playing a more deliberate style.
Washington has major talent across its defensive line since they’ve spent first-round picks on D-linemen in each of the last four drafts in Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Da’Ron Payne, and Jonathan Allen. Washington will need its D-line to take over a few games to give them some chances to steal a couple of wins. Washington didn’t get many breaks with its schedule, but it did at least get the Lions and the Panthers as its extra two NFC contests. I don’t feel great about Washington this season so I’m just leaning toward the Football Team to finish with more than five wins.
Best Bets: None of note.
Leans: Washington over five wins (-120, FanDuel)