Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season is in the books. As with the first week of every new NFL season, there were some surprises and plenty of overreactions.
The Washington Commanders started the Josh Harris era with a 20-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals. If this were one year ago, Washington fans would be complaining about beating a team many project to be the NFL’s worst by only four points. But as the sold-out crowd at FedEx Field would attest, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the franchise.
Of course, things can change in a hurry.
So, how did those around the NFL view Washington’s close win over Arizona?
We’ll find out by reviewing the latest power rankings from around the NFL media world.
Here is a power rankings roundup ahead of Week 2.
It wasn’t the start Sam Howell and the offense wanted, especially in terms of pass protection. Turnovers, penalties and sacks were huge bugaboos in Week 1 against a rebuilding Cardinals team, yet Washington escaped with a four-point edge. That’s worrisome but not yet a travesty. The offensive line, Howell and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy all can share some blame for the pass-pro mistakes. The Commanders’ defense showed it can take over games, but asking for that every week likely won’t fly for very long.
It’s hard to have a more underwhelming Week 1 win than Washington had. There were no standouts and nothing that looked great. The Commanders were in serious danger of losing to a bad Arizona team at home deep into the second half. It was a win, and you don’t turn those down, but Washington is going to have to be much better to keep winning.
Best debut performance: CB Emmanuel Forbes
Week 1 stats: 3 tackles, tackle for loss, 1 pass defensed
None of Washington’s newcomers made a tremendous impact, but Forbes, their first-round pick (16th overall), played a solid game. He handled his assignments well, didn’t bite on some double moves, kept his eyes in the right place in zone coverage and drove well on the few passes thrown to his man. On his TFL, he showed good recognition and quickly sped past a lineman headed his way and made the tackle on a run.
Sam Howell had some rough moments against the Cardinals, but he did enough to pull out a close victory. That offensive line had some major issues.
Commanders-Broncos is going to be a sneaky banger next week. One team tries to fend off absolute embarrassment while the other tries to hoist a Sam Howell-quarterbacked team to a first place start in the NFC East. Howell is tough, by the way, and was no worse than any of the quarterbacks who made up that middle-tier equator of passers last year. He threw players open, and, at least against the Cardinals, they were able to create a lot of space in the run game.
Pro Football Talk
Good news, they won. Bad news, they might not be much better than the Cardinals.
They really tried to lose to the consensus worse team in the NFL, but Sam Howell and the offense did enough to get the job done, and the defense held the Cardinals to just 210 total yards. Howell needs to protect the ball better going forward, but a win is a win.
USA TODAY Sports
Sam Howell became Washington’s seventh different Week 1 QB1 in the past seven seasons … and did little to dispel doubts there might be an eighth new face in 2024.
The curse is lifted. In the first game this century not under Dan Snyder’s ownership, the Commanders turned two Cardinals fumbles in the fourth quarter into 10 points, and Ron Rivera gave new owner Josh Harris a game ball in the locker room. (Even though we’re overreacting, we don’t think that’s going to be enough for Rivera to stick around into next year.)
Pro Football Network
In an incredibly predictable turn of events, Washington and Arizona both struggled to move the football offensively. There’s a ton of potential with the Commanders’ offense, but Sam Howell is inexperienced, and the offensive line is less than stellar.
Probably a bit closer than they’d have preferred against likely the NFL’s worst team, but 1-0 feels especially important when you’re making an ownership change. It feels noteworthy that Sam Howell committed two turnovers that led to 10 Arizona points — but also led his team on two fourth-quarter scoring drives to win the game. You take the good with the bad, I guess.