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Packers-Commanders Week 7 Q&A: Who are the X factors?

Washington’s best players are on their defensive interior, which is a bad matchup for Green Bay.

Tennessee Titans v Washington Commanders Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Kyle Smith of Hogs Haven, Acme Packing Company’s sister site that covers the Washington Commanders, took time out of his week to answer five burning questions that we had as we approach Week 7’s matchup between the Commanders and the Green Bay Packers. Smith also got five questions out of us, if you want to check those out, too.

How much of a difference is there between Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke and how is the offense expected to change with Heinicke under center?

Production-wise, there appears to be very little difference between Wentz this year and Heinicke last year, with Heinicke’s 2021 getting a slight edge in several categories. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that out of the gate, however, except for Wentz’s few brief moments of success, he was generally highly painful to watch this year, missing easy passes underneath, taking an ungodly number of sacks, and continuing to make stupid decisions at critical times, like Colts and Eagles fans warned us he would.

Wentz’s deep passing game is obviously better than Heinicke’s, but his short passing game is so weak I expect the team to look better overall with Heinicke behind center. Since early October, I was calling for Wentz to be benched. That wasn’t going to happen if he was still healthy, so yet again in DC, we have injury-making personnel moves that the coaching staff lacked the sense to execute earlier. We’ll see how it works out.

In back-to-back weeks, the Packers have struggled with handling Quinnen Williams and Dexter Lawrence, who were first-round interior defensive linemen. How well have Washington’s Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, former first-round interior linemen, played this season?

Payne and Allen have been, almost without question, Washington’s two best players this season. Watching Williams feast against the Packer’s guard last week did a lot for building my confidence for this game. On a team with relatively few bright spots, Washington’s defensive line pressure has been among the best in the league. I expect they could make it a very long day for Aaron Rodgers.

How has the running game looked recently? The Packers have obviously struggled to stop the run. We’ve seen that Antonio Gibson has been benched and Brian Robinson has taken over as a starter.

The running game, when it’s been deployed, has looked pretty good this year. While Robinson recuperated from his gunshot wounds for the first month or so of the season, Gibson played well, but he just didn’t get many carries, averaging about 13 per game. With Robinson looking like he’s ready to be the workhorse now, I expect that he’ll continue to get the majority of the carries and Gibson will be used in more of a hybrid “weapon” role, flexed out occasionally as a WR and used more actively in the kicking game.

What do you believe the X factors will be in this game if the Commanders are to win?

I think Washington’s running game will be the primary x-factor this week. Will OC Scott Turner be able to simplify the play calling sufficiently that Washington can score early and rely on its run game to wear the Packers down? Or, will Turner remain over-reliant on the passing game and play into Green Bay’s strength. I also think Washington’s defensive line is going to need to make Aaron Rodgers’ life very frustrating early in the game, in the hopes that they might be able to produce some turnovers.

The Packers are 4.5-point favorites on DraftKings. Do you think Washington ends up covering that line?

My gut says that Washington does cover this line this week, though I certainly wouldn’t have said that at the beginning of the season, or with Wentz behind center. Heinicke played well against the Packers last year but was ultimately let down by his defense. I think the defense steps up this Sunday as well, and that Washington eventually prevails, say 21-17.