What experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Commanders game

Patriots

The Patriots are slight favorites at home this weekend against a three-win Commanders team that traded away two of their top players at the deadline.

Sam Howell will lead the Commanders into Foxborough looking for an upset win. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

COMMENTARY

Sunday morning’s Kansas City-Miami showdown notwithstanding, have you seen the rest of this week’s lineup in the NFL? P-U-K-E. 

Never mind the banality of Commanders-Patriots. How about 3-5 Indianapolis at one-win Carolina? The 2-6 Giants vs. the 3-5 Rams? That Chicago-New Orleans game isn’t attracting a lot of eyeballs, which is probably why Tiki Barber is on the call. 

I suppose Washington’s trip to New England should be considered the most intriguing among the lot of snoozefests this weekend though. Is Bill Belichick going to kill two birds with one stone by beating Washington, thus helping his draft position when he heads off to coach them next season? 

Is Mac Jones inevitably going to make enough mistakes that Bailey Zappe Fever begins its annual rounds? Can the woeful Patriots offense do anything against a Commanders defense that all but changed its logo to a white flag at the trading deadline this week? It’s maybe the most offensive one they’ve ever had. 

This is how New England’s “winnable” stretch of games begins. Following the Commanders, the Patriots face off against the Colts, Chargers, and Giants. There’s not a lot of reason why those are “winnable” other than we’re still sort of used to the Patriots being a worthy opponent, which they’re not. 

Winnable? The Patriots are 2-6. One win was a phenomenal comeback against the Bills that they very well could have lost. The other was against the Jets, a game they won by a literal fingertip. What exactly is considered “winnable?” 

The Commanders? Maybe. Just don’t hold your breath. 

This week’s predictions: 

Neil Greenberg, Washington Post: Patriots (-3.5). 

Globe staff: Everyone likes New England, except Nicole Yang, who goes with the Commanders (+3). 

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 24, Commanders 16. “The Commanders have major issues on defense, and then traded away their two top edge players this week. But the New England offense is limited. So what gives? I think at home the Patriots are the pick. When two bad teams meet, take the home team, especially against one with a bad defense.”

CBS Sports staff: Five of seven pick New England (-3.5). 

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times: Patriots 19, Commanders 16. “Neither team is going anywhere. New England’s defense has been playing a bit better lately, and that’s not good news for Commanders QB Sam Howell, a sack magnet. The home team wins on defense.”

ESPN staff: Five of seven take the Pats. 

Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Washington (+3.5). “You know, it’s just … you’d sit down at 1 p.m., and you’d almost be overloaded. Matchups you were so excited to see play out on TV. RedZone firing on all cylinders, plus a warm snack, a cold drink. Nothing beat it! I don’t know. We do have Sam Howell vs. Mac Jones now so maybe it’s not so bad.”

Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: Commanders (+3). “I don’t really love taking Washington after they traded two good defensive linemen. Also, you have to wonder about the motivation of a team after the front office has waved the white flag. But I do think the Washington offense is making strides and the Patriots just aren’t good.”

Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer: Commanders (+3.5). “At 2-6, the Patriots have the worst record in the AFC. Leaguewide, only the Panthers and Cardinals have fewer wins. There’s a scenario here where Washington quarterback Sam Howell is sacked six times and has three turnovers and the Commanders look lifeless, given that they just lost two of their best players. But based on what I’ve seen from this Patriots offense all season, there’s no way I’m taking them to cover more than a field goal here.”

MMQB staff: Four of seven like New England. 

Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News: Patriots 27, Commanders 24. “The Commanders and Patriots’ defenses have a lot of holes in downfield coverage and their pass rushes are inconsistent. This turns into a weird shootout between Sam Howell and Mac Jones. Bill Belichick will find a way to put heavy pressure on the oft-sacked Howell and take away the middle of the field. Meanwhile, Jones will see more things open up downfield and protect the ball better.”

Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Commanders 20, Patriots 19. “The Patriots rank 31st in the NFL in scoring at 14.8 ppg.; an indictment of just how bad the offense has been this season. Washington has been in a free fall. Sam Howell’s protection was much better in the loss to Philadelphia. The Commanders have allowed 30 or more points five times, but they are 2-2 S/U on the road.” 

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 24, Commanders 20. “There aren’t many obvious wins left on the schedule for the Patriots, who are 16th out of 16 teams in the AFC.”

Chris Simms, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 24, Commanders 20.

It says here: Commanders 27, Patriots 17. I don’t know how the Patriots are going to score 17 points either. 


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