Alex Smith Inactive: Taylor Heinicke Gets Playoff Start for Washington

Alex Smith Inactive: Taylor Heinicke Gets Playoff Start for Washington article feature image
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Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Smith #11 of the Washington Football Team

Update: Alex Smith is officially inactive, the team announced. Taylor Heinicke gets the start against Tampa Bay.


Alex Smith’s comeback season might feature an anticlimactic finish if the Washington quarterback is unable to play on Saturday.

The Football Team designated Smith as questionable with a calf injury and the quarterback has been unable to practice all week. Head coach Ron Rivera described Smith as “sore.”

There has yet to be good news for Smith, who led Washington to a 5-1 record in games he started. He was able to play in the Week 17 win over the Eagles but wasn’t the same quarterback, mostly due to a lack of mobility. That’s bad news against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks sixth in yards allowed.

If Smith can’t play, Washington will turn to backup Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke played one game this year, replacing then-starter Dwayne Haskins in Week 15 against the Panthers. Heinicke threw for 137 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-19 passing.

According to NFL Network, there is a “real chance” Heinicke starts.

What Alex Smith’s Status Means For Washington

Our NFL experts — Chris Raybon, Sean Koerner and Matthew Freedman — power rated each starting quarterback in the playoffs. Smith is tied with Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky as the least valuable starter.

Smith is worth 1.2 points to the spread according to our consensus ratings. But a drop-off to Heinicke makes for a 2.1-point total adjustment on the spread. That could be why the spread jumped as high as Tampa Bay -9.5 earlier this week when Smith’s status first came into question. It’s settled back to 8 at most sportsbooks as of late Friday night.

The difference in current ability might not be huge between Smith and Heinicke, but the experience gap is significant.

If Smith doesn’t play, Washington will miss out on a quarterback with seven career playoff starts and a 14:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The moment wouldn’t be too big for Smith. It’s hard to say the same for Heinicke, who threw three interceptions in his only NFL start back in 2018.

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