Los Angeles Chargers vs Washington Football Team Week 1 Predictions: Against the Spread, Total and Props
Are the Los Angeles Chargers ready to challenge for a playoff spot in the first year under head coach Brandon Staley? Will the "Fitzmagic" version of new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick make the Washington Football Team a good bet to defend their NFC East title, or will "Fitztragic" hold them back of their full potential? We should have a better answer to some of these questions after the Week 1 battle between Los Angeles and Washington.
Los Angeles Chargers Preview
The Los Angeles Chargers went into last season with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback. However, after a lackluster Week 1 performance, the team named rookie Justin Herbert, and Herbert responded with a historic effort. In 15 games, Herbert broke nearly every rookie passing record. His 31 passing touchdowns were the most by a rookie in NFL history, as were his 396 completions and eight games with 300+ passing yards.
The Chargers hit a low point in Week 13 last year, as their 45-0 loss to the New England Patriots was their worst loss in franchise history. However, Los Angeles responded by winning their final four games, three of which came against divisional opponents.
Washington Football Team Preview
Though they finished the regular season just 7-9, the Washington Football Team earned a playoff berth after winning one of the worst divisions in NFL history. Washington used three different quarterbacks (Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith) in the regular season, then started Taylor Heinecke in their playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of necessity. The fact that the Football Team was within five points of the eventual Super Bowl champions with less than five minutes to play says a lot about the strength of their roster.
Los Angeles Chargers vs Washington Football Team Betting Predictions
A big key to this season's opener will be how well Los Angeles's offensive line handles Washington's fierce front seven that led the NFL with 47 sacks last year. The Chargers got a steal with the No. 13 overall pick draft pick in left tackle Rashawn Slater. In addition, they signed guard Matt Feiler from Pittsburgh, who was a leading contributor of an offensive line that held opponents to the fewest sacks in the league over the previous three years. Los Angeles also has an All-Pro center in Corey Linsley, who was named Pro Football Focus' best center in 2020. After factoring in the addition of right guard Oday Aboushi in the offseason, right tackle Bryan Baluga is the only returning starter from last year's squad.
While many bettors will point to the lack of familiarity that Los Angeles's offensive line has with each other, the bigger concern is the lack of cohesion that Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has with his skill position players. Fitzpatrick threw just 21 passes in two preseason games this year, completing just 57.1% of them. Washington's offense has the potential to be solid, with early rumors that running back Antonio Gibson will be used in a Christian McCaffrey-type role. However, Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is one of the best cover corners in the game. His ability to limit Washington wide receiver Terry McLaurin removes the Football Team's biggest threat.
As of this writing, the Chargers are one-point road favorites, which is important considering Washington went 8-3 ATS as underdogs since last October. In addition, the Football Team won three consecutive games in November and December as underdogs by a combined 39 points. However, Los Angeles's 4-0 run to end last season was more impressive and inspires more confidence heading into this year. Justin Herbert had a 66.6% completion percentage with 4,336 passing yards and ten interceptions in 15 starts, In the final four games, his completion percentage was 72.1%, and he threw for 278 YPG and eight touchdowns.
The Football Team are many bettors' "darlings," and they are a popular play to repeat as division champions. This makes a play on Los Angeles a likely contrarian pick, with the fact that the Chargers travel to the east coast for a 1:00 start likely to factor into many Washington wagers. But quarterback is the most crucial position in all team sports, and I trust Herbert over Fitzpatrick much more even at this stage of their careers. It should be a low-scoring game, but Los Angeles's offensive line will neutralize Washington's pass rushers enough for Herbert to get comfortable and lead the team to a big road victory.