The NFL knew what it was doing when they constructed the schedule for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. There are several premier matchups to be excited for, including the one going on in Landover, Maryland. The reigning AP Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year will face off Sunday when Justin Herbert takes his Los Angeles Chargers to visit Chase Young and the Washington Football Team.
The Chargers offense vs. the Washington defense; that's what this matchup seems to be about. Herbert proved he was a star in the making in his first 15 starts, while Young did the same on the defensive side of the ball. They are the leaders of their respective units, and with fans back in the stands, this one is bound to get exciting.
Here's a preview of the interconference Week 1 matchup:
How to watch
Justin Herbert vs. Washington's defense
The Rookie of the Year set an NFL rookie record with 31 passing touchdowns last year. He also averaged 289.1 passing yards per game, which was another NFL rookie record and the fourth-most overall in 2020. Injuries marred the Chargers' campaign -- which is why they finished with a 7-9 record -- but Herbert wasted no time proving he's a franchise quarterback this team can lean on. Unfortunately, he has quite a test in front of him this Sunday. Not only is he going to be playing his first legitimate road game in front of fans, but he has to take on what could end up becoming the No. 1 defense in the NFL.
Washington had the league's second-ranked defense last year in terms of total yards allowed per game (304.6). Along with having perhaps the best defensive line in the NFL, it bolstered the linebacking corps with first-round pick Jamin Davis and added to a capable secondary. Not only is Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins back, but Washington signed William Jackson to be its No. 1 cornerback, found a gem in third-round rookie Benjamin St-Juste and also made an underrated signing in Bobby McCain.
This is really what the game is going to come down to. Can Herbert score more points against this vaunted defense than Ryan Fitzpatrick will against the Chargers D?
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Chargers' secondary
With the Chargers being healthier than they have been in over a year, this secondary might actually be one of the better ones in the league. They have a veteran presence in Chris Harris Jr. at cornerback, a rookie with potential in Asante Samuel Jr. and then a budding dynamic duo at safety with Derwin James and Nasir Adderley. Fitzpatrick can make plays with his arm -- there's no doubt about that -- but he can also turn the ball over due to his aggressive mindset. This Chargers secondary strikes me as one that can really fly around, so a Fitzpatrick turnover could mean the difference in this game.
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Defense wins championships, right? That may sound like a fallacy in today's NFL, but I also think what Washington did on the offensive side of the ball makes them a legitimate contender. Apart from adding Fitzpatrick, the veteran has new weapons to throw to in Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries and Dyami Brown. It's no longer Terry McLaurin vs. the world! Throw in Antonio Gibson as a dual-threat weapon, and it could be difficult to predict what Washington is going to do on offense each play. Give me Washington in the slight upset.
Pick: Washington 24-21
Check out CBSSports.com for even more predictions on this game and the rest of Week 1.