Watch out now.
The Washington Commanders are 7-5 and in the thick of the NFC playoff race after starting the season 1-4. Despite all the dysfunction swirling around this team, they’ve found a way to climb out of that hole with serious playoff potential still in sight. And they’ve managed to keep pace in what’s become arguably the best division in football — all four teams are over .500 — overnight.
What makes this run for the Commanders more impressive is they’ve done it with Taylor Heinicke under center. Washington is 5-1 when Heinicke starts this year. There’s something about his energy this team feeds off. It feels like guys want to follow him and go all out in a way no team has ever done for Carson Wentz.
With all the drama coming out of the front office in Washington regularly, it’s a wonder the Commanders won any games. Dan Snyder is forever caught up in some scandal. Whether it stems from alleged sexual harassment/misconduct in the workplace, accusations of cheating other NFL owners out of money, or the team bungling an anniversary ceremony for a deceased former player, there’s always something negative to report with the Commanders.
So, the fact this team is not only in the hunt but only a couple of wins away from securing a wild-card spot is quite remarkable. Sure, Washington is in last place in a tough NFC East, but the Commanders travel to New York to face the Giants this week and, with a win, would move to 8-4 and into third. Keep in mind the Giants did lose to the Detroit Lions at home two weeks ago. After that, no loss anywhere should surprise Giants fans.
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During this run, the Commanders have relied on their defense as it’s improved significantly during their upswing. In their last seven games (six of which they’ve won), the Commanders have held opponents to 17 points or less in five of them. They haven’t allowed more than 21 in any of those games. Washington’s done this without arguably its best defensive player Chase Young, who hasn’t played one down this year. Young is still recovering from knee surgery and should make his season debut soon.
No one expects anything out of the Commanders should they make the postseason. But we also didn’t expect them to be this good, especially after such a slow start. At this rate, the NFC East is on pace to put all four teams in the playoffs. Something that’s never happened in the history of the NFL. Washington won’t be favored to win much if this happens, but if any team overlooks them, they’ve got the defense and luck on their side to pull off at least one big upset come January.