Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- This is a matchup of two teams built around their running game and defense, with middling quarterbacks that both teams actively work to hide and protect.
- Pace will be an issue, as both teams fall at the bottom of the league in tempo this year.
- The 49ers have clinched the NFC West with three weeks remaining in the season, while Washington has a half-game lead for the final NFC playoff spot.
How Washington Will Try To Win ::
The Commanders have played two games in the last three weeks due to their Week 14 bye, and both of those games were against the same opponent – the New York Giants. Washington emerged from that stretch with a 0-1-1 record and now holds on to the final NFC playoff spot with a half-game lead. After this week’s difficult road matchup with the 49ers, the Commanders have home games with the 6-8 Browns and a Cowboys team that will likely have nothing to play for in the last week of the season. Taylor Heinicke will remain the Commanders starting quarterback for at least this week, but head coach Ron Rivera left the door open to inserting Carson Wentz back into the lineup at any given time.
Washington started the season with a 1-4 record before righting the ship and going on quite the run in October and November to establish themselves as a potential playoff team. Their turnaround has been built around slowing games down and relying on their defense and running game to control the game. The Commanders rank 25th in the league in pass rate over expectation (PROE) and 30th in situation neutral tempo, while boasting the NFL’s 4th ranked run defense and PFF’s 8th graded pass rush. Taylor Heinicke has attempted 30 or more passes only once in his last six games while the offense flows primarily through running backs Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson, with some Curtis Samuel rushes mixed in as well. This week, the Commanders face the 49ers top ranked run defense, which often pushes opposing teams away from the run as they search for easier means of moving the ball. However, Washington’s commitment to their identity and growing distrust of their quarterback play will likely mean they continue to lean heavily on their running game and short area passing in this matchup, hoping to win a low-scoring and ugly game by winning the turnover and field position battles.