NFL · Sun (9/12) @ 1:00pm ET
|FedExField, Landover, Maryland|
A game featuring two teams that went 7-9 last season should not be one of the more anticipated ones of the opening week of the 2021 NFL season. But Week One’s matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington Football Team is just that.
The Chargers hoped they had the quarterback of the future in Justin Herbert when they drafted him. With how he played once he entered the lineup, they appear to be correct. Should Ryan Fitzpatrick provide some consistency behind center this season and that defense, WFT could be a dark horse contender.
It will be a game of potential between these two teams in Week 1— but who will win?
Los Angeles Chargers
With how well Herbert played behind a bad offensive line last season, the Los Angeles Chargers front office had to think about what they could do to help their franchise quarterback out. So, they got him a better offensive line. Four of the five starters are new. There could be some early issues as the line figures out how to gel.
But the outlook is not too bad. PFF has the Chargers o-line ranked 18th heading into the season. It ranked 32nd when the 2020 season ended.
Herbert was able to play well enough to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors despite his terrible offensive line. A better offensive line will make his job easier as well as that of running back Austin Ekeler. If Ekeler has a better season—well, that too will make life easier for Herbert.
Of course, all the yards in the world will not mean much if the Chargers do not put the ball in the end zone. While generating enough yardage to rank inside the top ten in total yards, they ranked in the bottom third of the league in scoring.
Offensively, the offense should be better this season. With Joey Bosa and Derwin James healthy and rejoining the defense, it will become a lot harder for opponents to put points on the board.
Washington Football Team
Washington’s primary issue last season was at quarterback—and they appear to have taken care of it. They will not necessarily have one of the more productive offenses in the league with Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center. But he will give them some much-needed consistency.
With that consistency, it will be harder for teams to take running back Antonio Gibson out of the game because the Washington offense will be more diverse. Opportunities will open up for wide receiver Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas. It will also become easier to integrate Curtis Samuel into the game plan.
However, how well all the pieces will come together depends on the offensive line. It was one of the better ones in the league last season (ranked sixth by PFF). But with the changes made during the offseason, the line is currently ranked 17th (according to PFF).
However, it would not be shocking to see the line perform well above that rank.
If it does not, Washington will still be in decent shape because their defense will be very tough to crack this season. The front four is one of the best in the business, and their cornerbacks are excellent. But their linebackers are not the best, which makes them vulnerable against the run.
Last season, the WFT defense ranked 14th against the run.
Bettors appear to have more faith in the Washington defense than the Chargers offense. So far, about 60 percent of the bets and 59 percent of the handle are on Washington. However, the spread favors the Chargers at most sportsbooks— but it is only a single point.
So, does it matter who the spread favors?
It is typically easier for defenses to get off to a good start than offenses. Execution issues can be covered easier on defense if you have good enough athletes—which Washington has. However, the Los Angeles Chargers defense is nothing to shake a stick at either.
What does all of this mean from a betting perspective? If you want to pick a winner, flip a coin. A good argument can be made for either team winning this one making this one, essentially, a toss-up. However, since the defense will likely rule the day for both teams, the under looks like a great bet.