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2023 NFL Week 1 Betting Preview: Arizona Cardinals vs. Washington Commanders

Washington Commanders QB Sam Howell
Aug 21, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) is pressured by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Rayshad Nichols (91) during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals (0-0) at Commanders (0-0)

Opening Spread: Commanders -7

Opening Total: 38

Weather: Chance of rain

Line Report

The line for this contest opened at Washington Commanders -5.5 or -6 at various sportsbooks. It quickly settled at Commanders -6 this offseason before gradually rising to -7 in the past few weeks.

The total opened at 41.5 points before gradually falling to its current mark of 38 to 38.5 points.

Cardinals Offense vs. Commanders Defense

Quarterback Josh Dobbs, who the Arizona Cardinals recently acquired, will start on opening day. He’ll be behind a bottom-tier offensive line against Washington’s top-10 front. The Commanders' front four could conceivably derail this game.

Arizona will no doubt lean on veteran RB James Conner. We expect Conner to see bell cow–type usage for as long as he can handle it. Last season, Washington gave up the fifth-fewest rushing yards and the second-fewest passing yards per game to running backs.

DeAndre Hopkins is now in Tennessee, which makes Marquise “Hollywood” Brown the standalone top option in Arizona’s passing attack. We can expect WR1-type usage from Brown, but we cannot rely on overall passing volume or efficiency from this offense.

Wide receivers Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch could see some quick release throws as Arizona tries to mitigate Washington’s pass rush advantage. The same could be said for tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey McBride. None of that is exciting, but that’s the most logical path for the Cardinals' passing attack.

Overall, we should have limited expectations for this offense until Kyler Murray returns. Muddy game plans should be the norm, especially when Arizona faces premium fronts such as Washington’s.

Commanders Offense vs. Cardinals Defense

Washington has an improved but still volatile offensive line. The Commanders have a quality skill group with two strong running backs and a pair of highly capable wide receivers. However, this team's success ultimately boils down to second-year QB Sam Howell.

Thankfully for Howell, he’ll make his second professional start against Arizona’s bottom-tier pass rush. The Cardinals' secondary has strong safety play, but they overachieved last season. Commanders WR Terry McLaurin has injury uncertainty. If he misses this contest, second-year WR Jahan Dotson could see a usage spike in a solid matchup.

In Howell’s lone start last year, McLaurin and Dotson each had three catches for just more than 70 yards. Curtis Samuel saw fantasy-relevant usage throughout the first half of last season, but in the second half, he only exceeded five targets once.

Arizona was a solid run defense last season, but it lost considerable talent on its defensive front. The Cardinals also allowed the second-most receiving yards per game to running backs last season. Consider this a plus matchup for both Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson.

What You’re Betting On

If the Commanders play well, they can win this contest with distance. The Commanders' front four faces a middling backup quarterback behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Washington’s defense could dominate this game. If Howell gives the Commanders an early lead while playing a relatively clean game, this one could be over early.

The Cardinals have one realistic path to stealing a win in Washington. They need a few turnovers out of Howell, who is making his second career start. A defensive or special teams score is how teams in Arizona’s position upset teams like Washington. 

In that scenario, if Arizona can deploy a muddy, run-centric game plan, it can keep this one close. If the Cardinals can be efficient in their short passing game to help mitigate the Commanders' pass rush, Arizona can make this one uncomfortable for Washington. Ultimately, a bet on Arizona is more so a bet against Washington — Howell, in particular.

Score Prediction: Commanders 16, Cardinals 9

Ryan’s Recent Betting Record

ATS 2021: 49-31

ATS 2022: 48-32

Props 2022: 60-40

Ryan is the associate director of fantasy and betting at The 33rd Team. Ryan has been covering NFL betting markets for five years. Follow Ryan @RyanReynoldsNFL on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.