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Five takeaways from the Commanders' 2023 season

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The NFL has revealed the Washington Commanders' full schedule for the 2023 season (You can purchase your single-game ticket HERE). Here are five takeaways from this year's slate of games. 

1. Opening things up at home. 

Washington started the last three seasons under the Ron Rivera era at home, and that trend will continue in 2023. This year, the Commanders will kick off the year on Sept. 10 against the Arizona Cardinals. 

Starting the year at home benefits the Commanders for several reasons. For one, assuming that Sam Howell takes the proper strides and is named the starting quarterback, his first game of the year will be in front of a home crowd full of fans cheering him on. And things went well for Howell the last time he was at FedExField; he made a solid first impression during his first career start by taking down the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys in convincing fashion. 

Judging a team by last year's results is always a risky decision, but it's clear that the Cardinals are going through a transition on several fronts. Not only do they have a new head coach in Jonathan Gannon, but Kyler Murray will likely not be ready for the game. The other quarterbacks on the roster include Colt McCoy, Jeff Driskel and David Blough. 

On defense, the Cardinals lost their best pass-rusher, JJ Watt, to retirement, leaving a Hall of Fame-sized hole on their defensive front. 

Washington is 2-1 in Week 1 games during Rivera's tenure, so recent history is in Washington's favor.

2. A Turkey Day throwdown.

One of the NFL's most iconic rivalries will see its next chapter played out on Thanksgiving.

This year's NFL triple-header on Turkey Day will feature a 4:30 p.m. matchup between the Commanders and Cowboys. Commanders fans don't need to be told this, but 10 of their team's 12 matchups on Thanksgiving have been against the Cowboys with the first coming on Nov. 28, 1968.

The last time Washington played the Cowboys on Thanksgiving was back in 2020, and the primetime matchup ended up being one of the most convincing wins for the Burgundy & Gold that season. Antonio Gibson rushed for 115 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while Montez Sweat secured his first career pick-six in a 41-16 victory.

Just as it was in 2020, Washington's Thanksgiving matchup will be on the road. Let's hope the holiday trip ends with a similar result.

3. Second half measuring sticks.

Rivera likes to refer to certain matchups as measuring sticks. There will be plenty in the second half of the season.

Despite them finishing fourth in the NFC East last year, the Commanders have the eighth most difficult strength of schedule based on last year's results. Aside from them playing in one of the strongest divisions in football, the Commanders also have a bevy of playoff teams on their schedule. Seven of their opponents made the postseason in 2022, and Washington will see six of them in the final 10 games.

That includes two matchups with the Cowboys, one against the Eagles, a New Year's Eve home showdown with the San Francisco 49ers, a road trip to play the Seattle Seahawks and home games against the Giants and Dolphins.

There are a few ways to look at that, one of which being that any road to the playoffs will be difficult for Washington. However, a more encouraging perspective is that if the Commanders make the postseason for the first time since the 2020 season, they will have proven themselves against some of the NFL's better teams.

4. A Thursday Night Football rematch.

Last year's Thursday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears ended up being one of the most exciting games for the Commanders and a springboard for winning seven of eight matchups. We're getting a rematch of the 12-7 game in 2023, only this time, it will be at FedExField.

Let's give a quick recap of what went down in Chicago. Washington had a 3-0 lead in the second half when Justin Field aired out a 40-yard touchdown to Dante Pettis with seven minutes left in the third quarter. Washington responded with nine consecutive points, including Brian Robinson’s first-career touchdown, and thanks to a game-saving effort by Benjamin St-Juste, Chicago's attempt at stealing the lead in the closing seconds was foiled at the 1-yard line, allowing Washington to run out the clock.

Washington's roster has changed dramatically since that primetime game, but so has that of Chicago. Fields has improved as a passer, and he has new weapons to throw to in DJ Moore and Chase Claypool. They also have retooled their defense with linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards.

It looks like Washington is in for another fight.

5. Division games are more spread out.

Washington's division schedule has been unique for the past two seasons.

Back in 2021, the Commanders wrapped things up with five straight division matchups with alternating games against the Cowboys and Eagles before the season finale against the Giants.

Last year, there was a technicality that saw Washington play the Giants on the road and then host its division rival after their bye week.

This year, things are more spread out. Washington's first NFC East opponent will be the Eagles in Week 4 on the road. That is followed by the Giants three weeks later -- another road matchup -- and then the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

On a positive note, three of the Commanders' final four division games will be at home. Depending on what happens in the first half of the season, Washington could be fighting for playoff contention at that point. Playing those games at home could give the Commanders an extra boost.

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