Bold Predictions for WFT's 2021 NFL Season

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2021

Bold Predictions for WFT's 2021 NFL Season

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    Susan Walsh/Associated Press

    While the Washington Football Team only won seven games last season, it did manage to win the NFC East. Repeating in 2021 could be difficult—particularly with the Dallas Cowboys getting back quarterback Dak Prescott from a broken ankle—but Washington will be a factor in the division.

    The Football Team fielded an elite defense last season, and most of the key pieces return for 2021. It also added players like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries to the offense, and it has an experienced coach in Ron Rivera.

    While many may view Washington's 2020 playoff bid as the product of a bad division, the Football Team earned its berth and will be dangerous again this season.

    Here are three bold predictions for what to expect from Washington this season.

Washington Will Have the League's No. 1 Defense

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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    Washington was a defense-centric team in 2020, and it's not hard to see why. With pieces like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Kamren Curl on the roster, Washington has few defensive weaknesses.

    As a unit, Washington's defense ranked second in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed last season.

    What's scary is that this group has the chance to be even better this year. The defense is getting a full offseason with coordinator Jack Del Rio and added players like cornerback William Jackson III and rookie first-round linebacker Jamin Davis to the mix.

    Washington's defense has been the dominant unit in training camp and has performed well in the preseason. Despite not giving significant snaps to many starters, Washington has allowed only 39 points through two contests.

    Don't be surprised if the Football Team ranks near the top in most defensive categories this season and finishes as the top overall unit in the NFL.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Will Throw for 4,000 Yards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Football Team signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year, $10 million deal this offseason. While Fitzpatrick is expected to start over Taylor Heinicke, Rivera has yet to make a declaration about Week 1.

    "You know, we don't play for 21 days," Rivera said Saturday, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk. "Whenever it's time to say it, I'll say it. Whenever we got to put out the first depth chart, you guys will see."

    Regardless, expect Fitzpatrick to start Week 1 and to have a strong season for the Football Team. While the 38-year-old journeyman has never had a 4,000-yard passing campaign, that will change this season—and yes, a 17-game schedule will help.

    Fitzpatrick topped 3,500 yards with the Miami Dolphins two years ago despite only starting 15 games. While Washington's passing attack was lackluster in 2020 (25th in the league), it will be better this term.

    The additions of Samuel, Humphries and 2021 third-round pick Dyami Brown will add some potency to a receiving corps that returns Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas—who combined for 1,788 receiving yards last year.

    Fitzpatrick is the seasoned quarterback Washington needs to succeed, and he will reach 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career.

Washington Will Have a Winning Record

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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    While the Football Team will be challenged in the NFC East by the Cowboys and New York Giants, they have a good chance of making the postseason.

    If the defense is as good as it was a year ago, it's going to keep Washington in most games. With an improved and more balanced offense, winning those games will be a common occurrence. The Football Team ranked 30th in total offense a year ago—despite having weapons like McLaurin, Thomas and Antonio Gibson—and still won seven games.

    A two-win improvement is not unrealistic given the new pieces on the offensive side of the ball. The icing on the cake is Rivera, who knows what it takes to win at the highest level. He took the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015 and delivered four playoff appearances to the franchise.

    Expect Washington to go 9-8 or better in 2021 and to make a strong push for a second consecutive postseason berth.