The Washington Commanders begin their two-game home stretch to close out the 2023 season with a matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Here are four things to know about Washington's next opponent.
1. They can rack up penalties at times.
The 49ers have a wide range of talent on their team, some of which have been up for MVP candidates this year like Christin McCaffrey or Brock Purdy. Last week, the team worked against itself with a significant number of yards sacrificed in penalties. During the 49er's 33-19 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, they were called on 10 different penalties. This drastic number of offenses accounted for 102 yards against them.
Against a team like the Ravens, this was game-changing and ultimately led to a tough loss at home on Christmas Day. While the Commanders' season has not gone as well as that of the Ravens, the large number of penalties is surely a consideration for Washington.
This can be beneficial for Washington on multiple fronts. The 49ers are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, averaging 6.2 per game. They also lose more yardage from penalties than most teams, as they have given up an average of 55.7 yards per game (26th). The Commanders will need some lucky breaks to get an upset over the 49ers. If San Francisco plays as sloppy as they did against the Ravens, Washington will need to capitalize.
2. Some injuries to watch this week.
Throughout the loss to the Ravens, the 49ers suffered multiple injuries to offensive linemen and added a variety of questions for Sunday's game.
Things started to get rocky for the 49ers when left tackle Trent Williams sustained a groin injury during the third quarter. Williams underwent an MRI on Tuesday, and his status for this Sunday remains unknown.
Williams was replaced with Jaylon Moore during the game, who only played for a quarter before sustaining a concussion. The two injuries at left tackle left the 49ers scrambling to not only recover from a Ravens lead but to protect Purdy, who threw four interceptions against the Ravens. Things continued unraveling for San Francisco when guard Aaron Banks's toe was reinjured.
The multiple injuries on the offensive line could give Washington's defense more of an edge to hold out the 49ers scoring production. And in turn, give Jacoby Brissett a chance to find some offensive opportunities.
The 49ers have been known as a winning team for most of this season. However, the injuries will be something to watch for Commanders fans throughout the week.
The Washington Commanders have begun warming up at MetLife Stadium for their Week 16 matchup against the New York Jets. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
3. Christian McCaffrey for MVP at running back.
The 49ers' trade for Christian McCaffrey last year continues to pay off.
McCaffrey graduated from Stanford University in 2017 and since has gradually made his way to the No. 1 running back rankings of the league this season. He's also leading the league with 1,395 rushing yards, the next closest contestant being Kyren Williams with 1,057 yards.
And despite many things going wrong for San Francisco last week, it's hard to place blame on McCaffrey who rushed 14 times for 103 yards. It was the fourth time he's surpassed 100 yards out of his last five games, and he's managed to score a touchdown and have six receptions for 28 yards off of 10 targets.
When Purdy produced little opportunities for him- McCaffrey capitalized on every single one with his powerful running and dynamic deceptions.
It's going to take Washington more than a good week of practice to prepare for McCaffrey. Covering him and adjusting to their offensive plays is critical. Taking a look at how he plays when the team is winning and losing, can give them a better idea of the variation of McCaffrey's style.
4. Welcome back, Chase Young.
Chase Young, who was an important part of the Commander's defense since being drafted in 2020, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers back in week 9. And this week, he'll be returning for this New Year's Eve matchup.
Young has proved himself to be an important part of the 49er's defense since being traded, and his familiarity with Washington's playing style will prove a need to adjust from the team's regular offensive schemes.
"Well, you know we just have to be on our assignment," Young said. "I feel like if we do that, everything's gonna be taken care of."
Young's time in Washington was uneven, but he was starting to show more flashes of his talent that was more common prior to his injury this season. He likely won't start on Sunday, but he will be part of obvious passing down, where he can rush more freely.