NFL Week 8 Upset Alert: Commanders Are a Live Underdog vs. Colts

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The Washington Commanders are now 1 of 7 NFC teams with a 3-4 record after upsetting the Packers last week. The Indianapolis Colts (3-3-1) are hanging by a thread to the No. 9 spot in the AFC after getting swept by the Titans.

Now big changes are on the way with former NFL MVP quarterback Matt Ryan getting benched for unproven backup Sam Ehlinger, who will make his first start on Sunday. It says a lot about the Colts’ recent quarterback carousel that a game that was supposed to be Matt Ryan vs. Carson Wentz will be Sam Ehlinger vs. Taylor Heinicke.

But the Commanders are a 3-point road underdog at many of the best sportsbooks. Can the Commanders ruin Ehlinger’s first start in an upset win?

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Washington Commanders vs. Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, October 30, 2022 – 04:25 PM EDT at Lucas Oil Stadium

Indianapolis Colts

It is understandable why the Colts made the move they did at quarterback this week. Matt Ryan was leading the NFL in interceptions (9), fumbles (11), and lost the most yards on sacks. He was making bad decisions because he was tired of getting hit at 37 years old.

But the team did not replace the offensive line or make any blockbuster trades this week, so it is quite possible the backup is going to be subjected to similarly poor protection and a running game that has been nowhere close to what it was in 2021 with Jonathan Taylor dominating.

Who is Sam Ehlinger?

He was a 6th-round pick in 2021 after serving as a 4-year starter at Texas where he threw 94 touchdowns to 27 interceptions. Ehlinger has some mobility as he rushed for 1,907 yards and 33 touchdowns in Texas. Don’t confuse him for the 2020’s version of Vince Young, but his mobility will be an advantage over Ryan’s statuesque pocket passing.

Ehlinger had some excellent passing numbers in the 2022 preseason: 24-of-29 for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns. Does that carry over to the real games? Not likely in this league. In his rookie preseason (2021), Ehlinger was also a solid 21-of-31 for 288 yards, but he threw 3 interceptions that year.

Still, the completion percentage and yards per attempt give some hope that he won’t be an inaccurate mess of a quarterback.

The Colts have a lot of experience adjusting to a different quarterback’s skillset, but the offensive line was underwhelming in pass protection last year with Wentz, and things have been worse this year despite Ryan getting rid of the ball in decent time.

Washington’s defense ranks No. 5 in pressure rate (26.2%) and the Commanders will need to get after Ehlinger to pull off this upset. They can take advantage of his inexperience, but this defense better starts producing splash plays. Washington only has 4 takeaways in seven games this year.


Washington Commanders

Taylor Heinicke’s Mobility

With Ehlinger an unknown, there is a potential blueprint for him in Taylor Heinicke, the new starter in Carson Wentz’s absence. Heinicke has some surprisingly decent mobility and can make things happen despite some of his clear shortcomings as a passer.

Heinicke got off to a terrible start against the Packers with every pass way off before settling down as he used his legs to extend plays. In the end, he outplayed Aaron Rodgers to an upset 23-21 win. It’d have been even smoother without an early pick-six from him.

But this Washington offense really should have been doing more than it was under Wentz. The Commanders have a solid trio of running backs with rookie Brian Robinson starting to come on in the last 2 games. Terry McLaurin is a legit No. 1 wide receiver and Curtis Samuel is a useful weapon too. Jahan Dotson will be a solid No. 3 once he returns from a hamstring injury.

Heinicke-Wentz Comparison

Heinicke also took just one sack against Green Bay, putting his mobility to good use. We know Wentz has issues with holding onto the ball too long and taking bad sacks. This is why going back to Heinicke, the 2021 starter, was not necessarily a downgrade for the offense.

Heinicke is also a respectable 4-4 on the road as a starter in his career, including a 4-1 record against teams that did not win more than 10 games on the season.

The Colts have not been terrible on defense, but the turnovers are not coming as frequently as they did last year when the Colts were right near the top of the league. This season, with linebacker Shaq Leonard only available for one game, the Colts have 7 takeaways in 7 games. That puts them on pace for 17 turnovers or barely half of the 33 they had in 2021.


Pick and Prediction

A quarterback’s first professional start is always a wild card for NFL picks, especially the players who are not true rookies. But with the Colts averaging 16.1 points per game with a former MVP quarterback, it is hard to imagine Ehlinger is the key to turning things around for this poor offensive line.

Washington’s run defense has been inconsistent but holding the Eagles to 72 yards and the Packers to 38 yards last week should be positive signs that they won’t allow a vintage Jonathan Taylor performance this week.

In the quarterback battle, let’s trust Heinicke’s experience just enough to get the job done and lead this team to a third-straight win to get back to .500.

NFL Pick: Commanders ML (+130) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Commanders ML (+130)
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