Russell Wilson's rebuilt offensive line faces big test from Commanders' dominant defensive line
Thu, Sep 14, 2023
NFL News (AP)
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (1-0) at DENVER BRONCOS (0-1)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT, CBS
OPENING LINE: Broncos by 3.5, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Commanders 0-1; Broncos 0-1.
SERIES RECORD: Broncos led 8-7.
LAST MEETING: Broncos beat the Commanders 17-10 on Oct. 31, 2021, in Denver.
LAST WEEK: Commanders beat the Cardinals 20-16; Broncos lost to the Raiders 17-16.
COMMANDERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (25), RUSH (18), PASS (21), SCORING (T-15).
COMMANDERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (4), RUSH (17), PASS (5), SCORING (T-8).
BRONCOS OFFENSE: OVERALL (23), RUSH (17), PASS (20), SCORING (T-22).
BRONCOS DEFENSE: OVERALL (17), RUSH (3), PASS (20), SCORING (T-12).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Commanders minus-1, Broncos plus-1
COMMANDERS PLAYER TO WATCH: S Kamren Curl and Washington's defense played well in the season-opening win against Arizona, though he and others dropped potential interceptions that could have made things easier. Curl is playing for a contract and perhaps is the unit's best difference-maker outside the defensive line led by Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat.
BRONCOS PLAYER TO WATCH: S Justin Simmons acknowledged he was a tad off his game in his return to action after missing most of camp so that a tweaked groin wouldn't become something that sidelined him in the regular season. Last year he injured a quadriceps in the opener at Seattle and missed a month. Still, he tied for the league lead with six interceptions in 2022.
KEY MATCHUP: Broncos C Lloyd Cushenberry III and guards Ben Powers and Quinn Meinerz have their work cut out for them facing the Commanders inside D-line led by Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat. That trio shined in Week 1 when Sweat had 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and forced two fumbles. Payne and Allen both added a sack and two tackles for loss and Payne also recovered a fumble. Few teams can produce heat up the middle as well as the Commanders. Broncos QB Russell Wilson is coming off a season in which he was sacked a career-high 55 times in 15 games. But he was only sacked twice in the opener.
KEY INJURIES: Commanders: EDGE Chase Young could miss a second consecutive game with a neck injury. ... DB Quan Martin had a concussion in the game against Arizona. ... Broncos: S Caden Sterns was placed on IR this week with a knee injury sustained in the opener. ... TE Greg Dulcich is out multiple weeks after pulling a hamstring in Week 1. Last year as a rookie, Dulcich missed three weeks of training camp and the first five games with a torn hamstring, then missed the final two games with a pulled hamstring. WR1 Jerry Jeudy is on track to return from a pulled hamstring in camp.
SERIES NOTES: The biggest game between these teams came on Jan. 31, 1987, when Washington walloped the Broncos 42-10 in Super Bowl 22 at Jack Murphy Stadium. That was one of three Super Bowls John Elway lost before beating the Packers and Falcons to cap his Hall of Fame playing career. Washington hasn't started 2-0 since 2011 and the Broncos have never lost back-to-back home games to start a season.
STATS AND STUFF: This will be QB Sam Howell's first road start in the NFL. ... Howell threw for and ran for a touchdown, lost a fumble and threw an interception in Week 1. ... RB Brian Robinson Jr. got 19 of the 26 designed handoffs against Arizona and rushed for 59 yards to go along with a TD catch. ... WR Terry McLaurin had two catches for 31 yards after spraining a toe on his right foot during the preseason. ... WR Jamison Crowder was signed to the active roster from the practice squad after returning three punts cleanly in the opener. ... The Commanders forced two Cardinals fumbles last week. ... Broncos QB Russell Wilson completed 79.4% of his passes (27 of 34) in the opener and his 108.8 QB rating was his second highest as a Bronco and fifth best in the NFL on opening weekend. ... RB Javonte Williams rushed for 52 yards in Week 1 as he returned from a knee injury that cost him the final 13 games of last season. ... RB Samaje Perine led Denver with 78 scrimmage yards, including a team-high 37 receiving yards in Week 1. ... WR Courtland Sutton had a TD catch in the opener. He hasn't had more than two scores in a season since 2019. ... WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey caught a TD pass in his Denver debut. ... TE Adam Trautman tied a career high with five catches. ... CB Pat Surtain II had a career-high three pass breakups last week as he limited WR Davante Adams to 11 yards on two receptions.
FANTASY TIP: McLaurin could have another big game. He'll be lined up aplenty against CB Damarri Mathis, who gave up some big plays against Las Vegas in the opener. Expect the Broncos to dial up more pressure on Howell than they generated against Jimmy Garopoplo, who was hit just once and never was sacked.
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