Game time: 1 p.m. ET, September 12, 2021
Venue: FedEx Field, Landover, MD
Where to watch: CBS
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Chargers -1.5; O/U 44; Chargers -120, Washington +100
BetMGM: Chargers -1; O/U 44.5; Chargers -111, Washington -105
Caesars: Chargers -1; O/U 44.5; Chargers -120, Washington +100
2020 season record
Chargers: 7-9 (3rd place, AFC West)
Washington: 7-9 (1st place, NFC East; lost wild-card vs. Buccaneers)
Ben Burns WON BIG in the preseason, as per usual. His two biggest plays involved the Patriots and the Dolphins. His #1 SIDE was on the Giants when they covered against the Patriots. His #1 total was on the Dolphins/Falcons 'over' the total. Those teams hook up for Week 1 in an important divisional matchup. Catch Ben’s and other plays available right now at the Shop Picks page, where you can find all of the Best Bets from our champion sports handicappers.
Chargers - Washington preview and analysis
Normally in a matchup like this, you’d like to give the quarterback edge to the reigning Rookie of the Year over the grizzled veteran.
But if there’s one thing the Washington Football Team is going to do this season is give opponents hell with that front seven. Asking the Los Angeles Chargers and quarterback Justin Herbert to walk into FedEx Field in Week 1 on Sunday and win a hostile road game will be a tough ask.
WFT was essentially handed the NFC East title last season by default. Had it not been for Dak Prescott getting injured five games in, the Dallas Cowboys (maybe the Philadelphia Eagles, sorry to the New York Giants) would’ve likely been the unfortunate souls to face Tom Brady in the Wild Card round.
But this isn’t an episode of “What If… ?” and the Football Team is coming off a 7-9 season where the Washington defense (and inspired play from Alex Smith) got them to the playoffs.
WFT coach Ron Rivera has long been known for his defense, and he’s got a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Chase Young on his defensive line. Young, last year’s No. 2 overall pick, had 7.5 sacks to lead all rookies. And if you can somehow contain Young, there’s star rusher Montez Sweat and his team-best nine sacks on the other side.
With that pass rush, you don’t need Superman efforts from Ryan Fitzpatrick. It does help that he has a top target in Terry McLaurin, who cracked 1,100 yards with no true No. 1 quarterback. Fitz-magic still has a lot left in the tank. That’ll help his top receiver. Washington also drafted North Carolina receiver Dyami Brown in the third round for another outside threat. If things go sideways, maybe Cam Newton could be an option with his former coach.
This is no knock on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, but it’s a formidable test for first-year coach Brandon Staley in keeping his young QB upright.
Los Angeles went 7-9 in its first season without Philip Rivers, and Herbert was tha reason for that. Last year’s No. 6 overall pick became the first rookie to throw 25 touchdown passes and 4,000 yards in the same season. Herbert was 38 yards shy of breaking Andrew Luck’s rookie record set in 2012. Another year with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry should make Chargers fans excited for this season. Most importantly, he had only 10 interceptions.
But for one week, that excitement can be tempered.
Washington had the fourth-best scoring defense in the league last season, allowing only 20.6 points per game. It even addressed defense early in the NFL Draft by taking Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis at No. 19 in what was a productive offseason for Washington..
This is a young defense that can swarm and disrupt any offense. Washington fans are going to be back in FedEx Field for the first time in almost two years, and should be fired up to see this team.
The only way Washington loses this game is if Fitzpatrick screws up. It really shouldn’t take much. Los Angeles is going to be a dangerous team this season and will contend for a playoff spot, but the Chargers still need to go through some growing pains before taking that next step. On the road in Landover is a start in what will be a slugfest. Washington 24-17
The Chargers are 4-3 in their last seven straight up as a road favorite.
Washington is 7-9 against the spread in its last 16 home games, while 4-13 straight up.
Players to watch
Chargers: With Kendall Fuller likely lined up opposite of Keenan Allen, this is a good chance for Mike Williams to have a big game. Williams recorded his second straight season of 750 yards (756), and his 17.3 yards per catch is second in the league since 2018.
Washington: Running back Antonio Gibson enters Year 2 after leading all NFC rookie tailbacks with 795 yards and 11 touchdowns. With how wide-open that passing attack will be (Curtis Samuel is another addition they made, and Logan Thomas at tight end will be a star), Gibson could be in line for a big season.
Statistical leaders from 2020
Passing: Justin Herbert -- 4,336 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Austin Ekeler -- 530 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Keenan Allen -- 992 yards, 8 TD
Defense: Joey Bosa -- 7.5 sacks
Passing: Alex Smith -- 1,582 yards, 6 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Antonio Gibson -- 795 yards, 11 TD
Receiving: Terry McLaurin -- 1,118 yards, 4 TD
Defense: Montez Sweat -- 9 sacks; Chase Young -- 7.5 sacks; Jon Bostic -- 118 tackles
Don't miss our champion handicappers' free picks and expert football picks today. And if you enjoyed this Los Angeles Chargers - Washington Football Team prediction, be sure to drop by every day for our daily NFL projections and previews.