It’s a bit difficult to actually believe we have made it to this point, but the Washington Commanders officially control their own playoff destiny.
Sitting in the seventh Wild Card spot with their next two games against a Giants team currently one slot ahead of them is not a scenario many Commanders fans envisioned at the beginning of the season, let alone just 7 weeks ago as the Bears were driving down for what appeared to be a crushing game-winning drive to put Washington in a 1-5 hole to start the season. But, Benjamin St. Juste made a play, the Bears didn’t, and the rest is history.
Washington goes to New York this Sunday, favored to defeat their surprisingly plucky division foe to take over the 6th seed in the NFC playoff picture. You read that right…Washington is favored, on the road, to beat a 7-4 Giants team.
Let that sink in…and then, in case you’re struggling to believe this is real life, let’s jump into some Commanders Reality Checks for this incredibly important Week 13 tilt.
Commanders reality checks for Week 13 vs the NY Giants
5. The Reality Is, Taylor Heinicke is the Hickory High of NFL Quarterbacks.
For some of you, that reference means nothing. For the true sports fans, it means everything. Hickory is the High School from Hoosiers…the classic movie about a small-town basketball team that gets coached up by a disgraced big-time coach to win a state championship. The thing is, Hickory, for all their pluck, and grit, and great coaching, has no chance unless Jimmy Chitwood agrees to join the team.
Heinicke is Hickory…undermanned, under-talented, but scrappy to the very end. Inspiring, but in need of playing their absolute best (and have a lot of bounces to go their way) to sustain success. And recently, he’s more like Hickory without Jimmy than Hickory with Jimmy. Heinicke has NOT played consistently well the last couple weeks. He’s made some great plays, but he’s also made a bunch of really poor ones….and he’s been bailed out by a fantastic run game, a defense riding a hot streak, Daron Payne’s Left Hand Up, and Kendall Fuller making two key interceptions.
Outside of those factors, Heinicke would have played his way back to the bench by this point having barely beaten Houston and lost to Atlanta. Heinicke is actually floundering a bit. The baller needs to show back up. The Hoosiers need Jimmy to start making a bunch of shots. Heinicke needs to get hot, or he’s going to get replaced by Wentz as soon as this winning streak comes to an end, and being relegated to the career backup role.
I’m genuinely intrigued by what Wentz’ ceiling is, at this point in his career, on this team playing like it is right now. Rivera is too, no doubt. Heinicke has the opportunity to elevate his play and keep the Commanders or the rest of us from finding out. If he does, Washington likely ends up 10-7 or even better. Heinicke’s best, combined with the rest of this roster’s consistency, and this team could get scary down the stretch.
The crazy thing is, if they do, and somehow beat San Fransisco or Minnesota in non-fluke fashion, Heinicke likely buys himself another year as the starter with Howell and another young QB in the wings, like it or not. Quite the diversion of possible outcomes. Get your popcorn ready.