The Washington Commanders will travel to Kansas City on Saturday to take on the Chiefs in NFL preseason action week #2. The Commanders have a brand new name and a brand new quarterback this season as former Eagle and Colt Carson Wentz takes over the reigns for Ron Rivera's squad. The Chiefs come in as one of the elite teams in the NFL but the 2019 Super Bowl champs are transitioning a bit themselves as they will be without All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill this season, traded to the Dolphins in the offseason. The opening kickoff is set for 4pm EST.
Name that TeamThe Washington football team finally has a new name, the Commanders, but do they finally have their franchise quarterback? After years of uncertainty at the position, the Commanders went out and signed veteran Carson Wentz to lead the offense this season. Wentz will now play for his third team in three seasons and is trying to return to the form that made him an MVP candidate just a few short seasons ago while leading the Eagles. Wentz was given the opportunity to work more than your average, established quarterback in the opener as he went 10-of-13 for 74 yards and led a 14-play, 82-yard drive that resulted in the Commanders' first touchdown.
"It was good to get out here and not be booed and have some fun," Wentz said. “It wasn’t perfect, but it was good to kind of get our feet wet a little bit offensively.”
It will be interesting to see how much work Wentz gets in his second game as the Commanders also have a seasoned and capable backup in Taylor Heinecke. Heinecke was 4-for-9 for 21 yards and an interception in limited action in the Commanders' first game. Last season, Heinecke started 16 games and had a passer rating of 85.9 with 3,419 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for Washington. He might see more action in the second game and less snaps may be given to rookie quarterback Sam Howell out of North Carolina. Howell, who fell all the way to the fifth round after a subpar junior year after being projected as a possible first-round quarterback following an outstanding sophomore season, went 9-of-16 for 143 yards. He also showed off his athletic ability by running for two scores in the game. It will be interesting to see how coach Ron Rivera and the Commanders dole out the playing time at quarterback this weekend.
The Commanders added some offensive talent this offseason besides quarterback Carson Wentz. Washington drafted WR Dahan Dotson out of Penn State, who should fit in nicely next to incumbent WR Terry McLaurin. Along the offensive line, the Commanders added guard Andrew Norwell while re-signing center Tyler Larsen. The defense added defensive end Efe Odaba out of Carolina. He will add depth as the Commanders still wait on the recovery of DE Chase Young. Young is still recovering from knee surgery at the end of last season and will not be back until at least week 2 of this season. The Commanders have some work to do on the defensive side of the ball after the team underachieved last season. Rivera recently replaced his long-time assistant Sam Mills, citing philosophical differences. With that in mind, expect to see more of the Commanders regulars seeing action on defense as they try to implement a new system.
The Commanders lost their opener, 23-21, but the loss was encouraging given that the Panthers featured two NFL starters from last season at quarterback playing significant minutes. With Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield battling it out in Carolina, the Commanders defense was put to the test. The Commanders will likely have the advantage at quarterback this week with two NFL starters of their own from last season playing significant minutes against a Chiefs team that will likely be resting most of its key players.
High and Mighty ChiefsThe Kansas City Chiefs are once again ready for another run at a Super Bowl title. The Chiefs have reached the AFC Championship game in each of the past four seasons and been to the Super Bowl twice, winning it all after the 2019 season. This season, the Chiefs will again have former MVP Patrick Mahomes running the show at quarterback and he will have some familiar faces on offense with him like Clyde Edwards-Helaire at running back and tight end Travis Kelce. The wide receiver position will be going through some changes this season, however. The biggest loss will be that of speedster Tyreek Hill, who was traded to Miami after the Chiefs couldn't agree to a long-term deal with him this offseason. Former Steeler JuJu Smith-Schuster and former Packer Marquez Valdes-Scantling were brought in to soften the blow but the Chiefs offense will certainly look different without the blazing speed of Hill to disrupt opposing defenses.
The Chiefs lost their opener, 19-14, but Mahomes looked to be in mid-season form. In his only series of the game, Mahomes went 6-of-7 for 60 yards culminating in a five-yard touchdown pass to Blake Bell. Mahomes was done for the night after that and gave way to the Chiefs' backup quarterbacks. Primary backup Chad Henne played just one series and went 2-for-3 for 10 yards. Second-year quarterback Shane Buechele played the majority of the game and went 12-for-19 for 99 yards.
“We did what we were supposed to do,” Mahomes said about his brief appearance in the game. “We went out there, we were able to spread the football around, get a lot of different guys involved and found a way to get in the end zone.”
Workin' every day of the week that ends with Y. pic.twitter.com/XmzWjyhVE8— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 17, 2022
Week two of the preseason will be about the bubble players on an established team like the Chiefs. Each team now has until August 30th to get their rosters down from 90 players to the final 53-plus practice squad. This week's game should feature a number of position battles that could shape the Chiefs roster going forward. At running back, the Chiefs have a battle for the likely one remaining spot at running back. Since the Chiefs carry a fullback, there will likely be room for only three running backs on the roster. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon both looked to be locks while the third spot may come down to rookie seventh-rounder Isiah Pacheco, veteran free agent pickup Ronald Jones and one of last year's surprise performers, Derrick Gore. Pacheco is cheaper and had a good camp so he may hold the edge. All three should see plenty of action on Saturday night. The Chiefs will likely keep six wide receivers so one player that is definitely on the bubble is super skilled but highly troubled wideout Josh Gordon. He will have to have a big night in order to be in the running for a WR spot with the Chiefs having younger, cheaper options. Lastly, there should be some heavy competition along the defensive line this week as the Chiefs sort out the depth chart on that side of the ball.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
While the Chiefs are unquestionably the stronger team, they have far less to play for in this battle other than individual positional battles. For the Commanders, they will continue to try and grow the chemistry between Wentz and his new wideouts so I expect to see Wentz play at least through the first half. With the reduced preseason schedule the last two seasons, game two of the preseason takes on a much grander scale as teams try to tighten things up before resting their starters entirely in the final week. The Chiefs know what they have at quarterback and they also know that it is imperative that Mahomes is upright and ready to go for the regular season, not a meaningless preseason game in August. I expect Mahomes to play perhaps an additional series in this game but not much more than that. Andy Reid will keep it simple and keep his MVP signal-caller out of harm's way in this one.
Lifetime, Riverboat Ron Rivera is 21-18 in the preseason and he is once again coaching a team that needs to feel confident and where the wins matter in any game. Even though this game doesn't count in the grand scheme of things, a good effort against a top-notch opponent like KC will give his team confidence. I expect Rivera will treat this game as such. On the other hand, Andy Reid knows the journey begins in week 1 of the football season, not week 2 of the preseason. He also knows that the Chiefs aren't going anywhere without a healthy Mahomes. He will use him accordingly and I expect to see a heavier dose of Henne in this game. Henne played just one series in the opener but he will get a longer look in this matchup as the team's primary backup. Reid's 42-45 career record in preseason games is a far cry from his regular season mark as he has often been at the helm of veteran teams that don't need to be pushed in the preseason.
I like the Commanders to win a relatively close game that will feature their two primary quarterbacks in Wentz and Heinecke. Take the points and go with the Commanders.
Full-Game Total Pick
Even in small doses, Mahomes can put up points rather quickly. He played just one series and marched his team right down the field for a score in the opener. It would not surprise me to see him put up two scores in two series worth of work on Saturday night. On the other side of the ball, Wentz and the Commanders' primary focus will be to develop a comfort level between himself and his receivers. With that in mind, I expect the Commanders to put the ball in the air quite a bit on Saturday night as well. The Commanders went over this number in their opener against Carolina while the Chiefs were short of this number but also featured a heavy dose of second-year QB Buechele. I expect to see another series of Mahomes in this matchup and at least three series from the Chiefs' primary backup, Henne. With that in mind, I fully expect the Chiefs to put up three to four scores in this one.
Take the over, 42.5 points.