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Chargers vs Washington Football Team: NFL Week 1 preview

The Los Angeles Chargers face the Washington Football Team in NFL Week 1, a matchup between two of the best defenses in the NFL and potential playoff contenders.

Our Chargers vs Washington Football Team preview examines the game info, key matchups and odds for Sunday’s game.

Chargers vs Washington Football Team: What you need to know

Let’s dive into our Chargers vs Washington Football Team matchup previews.

Find out where Washington and the Chargers stand in our Week 1 NFL power rankings

Justin Herbert vs Ruam Fitzpatrick

Chargers vs Washington Football Team, Kirk Cousins
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington reached the playoffs in 2020 without the benefit of consistent play at quarterback. As a result, the team signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and thrust him into the starting role. He’s an immediate upgrade over Alex Smith and gives Washington’s passing attack a needed spark, elevating the entire ceiling for the offense.

On the other side, Justin Herbert is coming off one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history. The No. 6 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft played at an All-Pro levels at times in his first year, despite starting behind a porous offensive line. With circumstances improved, expectations are very high for the second-year quarterback in 2021.

  • Disappearing Act: Everyone loves the FitzMagic nickname and there are certainly times when Fitzpatrick earns it. But the veteran completed just 55% of his passes on third down, had a 72.1 passer rating in losses and both his completion rate and passer rating dropped significantly in the second half. If the Chargers are leading late in the game, FitzMagic may not pull a rabbit out of his hat.
  • California Cool: Washington will generate plenty of pressure, it’s what they are best at. But Herbert is ready for it, demonstrated by his NFL-best 99.4 passer rating, 13-2 TD-INT ratio and 77.1 Pro Football Focus grade under pressure last season.

Advantage: Justin Herbert

Chargers’ wide receivers vs Washington’s secondary

Chargers vs Washington Football Team
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most intriguing matchups in the Chargers vs Washington Football Team contest will be found on the outside. Los Angeles doesn’t have one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL but the duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams complement one another nicely. We’re also keeping an eye on rookie Josh Palmer, who could make an early contribution on the outside.

Find out where the Chargers and Washington Football Team land in our Week 1 NFL defense ranks

Washington’s strength on the defensive side is the defensive line, but we can’t sleep on the secondary. Kendall Fuller is back and should do a nice job as the No. 2 cornerback. But the big addition is William Jackson III, who offers the size (6-foot), speed and skills to contain some top receivers.

  • Watch the Slot: Fuller traditionally plays on the outside, seeing just 8.8% of snaps in the slot last season. But he’s played inside earlier in his career and Ron Rivera might want to move him inside to line up against Keenan Allen. Otherwise, Darryl Roberts is in for a long day.
  • Rookie Watch: Some believe the Chargers reached for Palmer with the 77th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But the front office recognized an underutilized talent from college and there is confidence this 6-foot-1 receiver could make some big plays thanks to his clean route running.

Advantage: Los Angeles Chargers

Washington’s pass rush vs Chargers’ offensive line

Chargers vs Washington Football Team
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Credit to the Chargers for devoting their offseason to fixing this offensive line. Los Angeles spent its first-round pick on left tackle Rashawn Slater, who drew rave reviews this summer. The front office also signed Matt Feiler, who excels in pass protection, and gave All-Pro center Corey Linsley a blank check to protect Herbert.

There’s so much that can be said about Washington’s defensive line. Chase Young is posed for a Defensive Player of the Year season, but the recognition he receives takes away from some other game-changing players. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne are forces on the interior, with Montez Sweat realizing his potential and turning right tackles around in one-on-one matchups.

  • Rookie Test: Left tackle is one of the most difficult positions to play, especially as a rookie. Slater impressed in the preseason, but the games count now. Facing Chase Young, one of the best players in the NFL, is a daunting task for a rookie.
  • Pressure: There are four names to know in Washington. Young, Allen, Payne and Sweat. Washington’s starters combined for 173 total pressures, with three of them generating 40-plus pressures and all four recording 20-plus quarterback hurries.

Advantage: Washington Football Team

The bottom line: There is plenty of offensive firepower to watch in this Chargers vs Washington Football Team matchup. Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson are all capable of big plays. But defense will determine who wins this game and we give that advantage to Washington.