The Washington Commanders and New England Patriots are both teetering on the edge of total collapse. But a win this week could set either squad in the right direction as the second half of the season approaches. This could be ugly, but there’s still value on the table, so let’s dig into some Commanders vs. Patriots player props, featuring the Commanders backfield of Sam Howell and Brian Robinson Jr.
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The Commanders offense is quietly talented, while the Patriots defense has become a bit overrated, but is still clearly the team’s relative strength. How will these two units clash on Sunday? Let’s see how the matchup will affect the performances of a few key players.
Sam Howell Under 0.5 Interceptions (+105)
The Patriots pass defense started the year off as a quietly stifling unit with a deep and talented pass rush, and a plucky secondary led by rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez. Well, now Gonzalez is out for the year with an injury, as is top edge rusher Matthew Judon. The Pats have only picked off four passes all season, one of which was by Gonzalez, and despite having only played parts of four of New England’s eight games, Judon is still the team’s sack leader.
Suffice it to say that the unit has not been able to reload and move on without their two best players. The Patriots pass defense ranks 25th in success rate and 27th in EPA, although a tough schedule has granted them a more favorable 18th from DVOA.
They still blitz at the third-highest rate in the league, but pressure at just the 19th-highest, a serious problem without Judon in the mix. Howell is an absolute disaster under pressure, as he’s produced five big-time throws to nine turnover worthy plays in those situations. But those numbers flip to 12 and five when he’s kept clean. Washington’s offensive line has done him few favors, but they might be able to compete against New England’s diminished front seven in this one.
It’s also worth noting that Howell, as much as he has struggled, doesn’t necessarily stack interceptions the way his stats might imply. He’s been pick-free in three of eight games so far, and has thrown multiple interceptions just once, an ugly four-turnover effort against the Buffalo Bills before that defense was so grievously injured. He avoided turnovers against the Eagles, Falcons and Broncos, units that grade pretty similarly to the Pats when it comes to pass coverage, so he definitely has the chance to play clean this Sunday.
Brian Robinson Jr. Under 43.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
After a hot start to the season, Brian Robinson Jr. has cooled down considerably. He rushed for 59 or more yards in each of Washington’s first three games, but just touched that number for the first time since then in the team’s most recent game, against the Eagles. It was also the first time since Oct. 1 that he cleared even the modest total set by Vegas for this game. In the wake of his best performance in weeks, it’s a great time to bet on him to come back to Earth a bit.
The Patriots run defense has also kept its form much more than the unit’s pass prevention, which makes a lot of sense based on the position groups that have dealt with the most injuries. The Pats rank fourth in run defense EPA, second in success rate and seventh in DVOA, definitely not a great proposition for a Washington ground game that grades out as essentially average.
The good news for Washington is the regression in the New England pass defense as we discussed above, which raises the question- why even try to run when passing is so easy? If they want to get Robinson involved, that’s still a very viable option, he’s a capable receiving back in the short field. Instead of running into a brick wall, expect Washington to take the path of less resistance and get the ball in the air. Robinson shouldn’t have many carries, and it’s hard to imagine him doing too much with what he does get.
Chad Ryland Under 1.5 Field Goals Made (-135)
Last, we have our obligatory defensive/special teams prop, where we will take another stab at projecting Chad Ryland’s output. The MAC legend has only hit multiple field goals in two games this year, which is incidentally the same amount of times he’s failed to hit any at all. He had a chance to hit two against the Cowboys but missed one, and went an ugly 2-for-4 against the Jets back in September.
The Patriots have a pretty good red-zone offense. They rank seventh in the league as they score touchdowns on 64.71% of their trips inside the 20-yard-line. Their pass catchers aren’t explosive, but are particularly well-suited to finding space in short spaces. And those are throws that Mac Jones is quite capable of hitting.
Given this trend, the Patriots’ abysmal offense is much more likely to simply fail to move the ball at all than it is to make it inside the 20 and then stall. Ryland has been a bit hotter of latE. He hasn’t missed a kick since he whiffed on the Patriots’ lone opportunity to score points in a shutout loss to the Saints. But he just shouldn’t have the opportunities needed to break this under.