Commanders bench Heinicke, going back to Wentz at quarterback

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The Washington Commanders are benching Taylor Heinicke and returning to Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback for the Week 17 game with the Cleveland Browns.

At 7-7-1, the Commanders still occupy the final Wild Card place in the NFC playoff race, with other results going in their favour in Week 16, which saw Washington brushed aside 37-20 by the San Francisco 49ers.

That was only Heinicke's third defeat in nine starts this season after a finger injury to Wentz saw him take the helm of the offense in Week 7. However, it followed disappointing outcomes in back-to-back games with the New York Giants in which they played to a tie on the road before losing in contentious fashion at home.

Heinicke lost a fumble and was intercepted as he was limited to 166 yards passing on 13 completions by San Francisco, though he did throw two touchdowns, before being replaced by Wentz in the fourth quarter.

Wentz went 12 of 16 for 123 yards and a touchdown after coming into the game and, according to multiple reports, will reassume the position of starter for a potentially decisive clash at FedEx Field.

Wentz, whom the Commanders acquired in an offseason trade with the Indianapolis Colts, is 2-4 as a starter this season.

The Commanders will clinch a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons if they beat the Browns and the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers all suffer defeats in Week 17.

Wentz has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 75.6 per cent of his pass attempts this season, below the NFL average of 81.1 per cent. However, Heinicke's pickable pass rate of 7.82 per cent is the worst among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes in 2022.

The Commanders will hope Wentz can take better care of the football than his team-mate and put a Commanders team with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball in position to reach the postseason.