NFL Week 14 Preview: Washington Takes Its New Swagger into San Francisco Game

Written By Dann Stupp on December 9, 2020 - Last Updated on December 14, 2020

The Washington Football Team and quarterback Alex Smith venture west for a game against the San Francisco 49ers while coming off one of the season’s most surprising upsets.

Sure, the WFT was only a modest underdog to the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, if most football fans were to predict which opponent would finally knock the mighty Steelers from the unbeaten ranks, few would have chosen Washington.

However, Washington players endured. They endured multiple game postponements because of league-wide COVID-19 issues heading into the Steelers game, which didn’t actually happen until Tuesday of this week. They endured a second-quarter 14-0 deficit. They also endured the loss of running back Antonio Gibson to a toe injury he suffered early in the game.

Despite it all, Washington kept Pittsburgh from reaching a 14-0 record.

The 23-17 victory helped Washington (5-7) maintain a share of the NFC East lead with the New York Giants.

Now, Washington takes its well-earned swagger to the West Coast for a Sunday matinee (4:25 p.m., Fox) with the San Francisco 49ers (5-7). However, the WFT, which beat Pittsburgh as 6-point underdogs, will need to pull off another upset this weekend.

Alex Smith returns to San Fran

Smith, who took over as QB1 for Washington a month ago, has guided the team to three straight victories. Now, as he looks for a fourth consecutive win, he plays the team where he got his NFL start.

Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, went 36-36-1 during his seven years with the 49ers, including 19-5-1 in his final two. Now, after a subsequent and successful run with the Kansas City Chiefs, 36-year-old Smith is enjoying a resurgence with Washington, where he sat out all of 2019 after a horrific leg injury.

Smith is healed and making the most of his latest opportunity. However, it won’t be a true homecoming. After all, Sunday’s Washington vs. San Francisco game will be played at State Farm Stadium in Arizona, since there is a COVID-related ban on contact sports in California’s Santa Clara County.

Smith and Washington opened as 4-point underdogs to the 49ers, who are just 1-5 in their past five games following a 34-24 loss to Buffalo on Monday Night Football. Early money has favored Washington, and the line is down to 3 points at many sportsbooks.

The total for this game is low. After all, it features two of the league’s stingiest defenses: Washington allows just 21.7 points per game (eighth best in the NFL), and San Francisco allows just 24 (12th best). The over/under opened at 43.5, and bettors had knocked it down to 43 by Wednesday morning.

It’s crunch time, and Washington may need to win out to make the postseason. Rest assured, though, the team has plenty of motivation. As head coach Ron Rivera is happy to declare: “Underdogs win.”

Other Week 14 games of note to Virginia

Here’s what NFL Week 14 offers for Virginia football fans’ other favorite teams:

Tennessee Titans (-7.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Tennessee Titans (8-4) narrowly beat the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-11), 33-30, in Week 2. The loss began a current 11-game losing skid for Jacksonville, which has lost four of its past five by 4 points or fewer. They’re struggling but remaining competitive. Meanwhile, heading into Sunday’s rematch (1 p.m., FOX), Tennessee is coming off a stinging 41-35 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. The Titans opened as 7.5-point favorites against Jacksonville. That spread, as well as the total (53), have remained relatively steady in early-week betting.

Baltimore Ravens (-1) at Cleveland Browns

The Baltimore Ravens (7-5) and Cleveland Browns (9-3) look to gain ground on the first-place Steelers when they meet on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m., ESPN). The two AFC North teams kicked off Week 1 against each other, and Cleveland left Maryland with a 38-6 loss. In the rematch, though, Baltimore opened as a 3-point favorite, but the line had dropped to the Ravens -1 by Wednesday morning. The total had moved from 45.5 to 46.5. Expect this featured matchup to garner plenty of national attention this week.

Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers (-4)

Two struggling 4-8 squads meet on Sunday when the Carolina Panthers host the Denver Broncos on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS). Carolina is 1-6 over its past seven games; Denver is in a 1-4 skid. However, Carolina is coming off a bye week and should be well-rested against the Broncos, who looked otherwise game in a 22-16 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. The Panthers opened and have held steady as 4-point favorites at home. The total (46.5) has also seen no early movement.

Photo by AP / Justin Perl
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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