When these teams met in September, the Eagles opened with a hiccup -- a
Washington was not prepared for the onslaught.
This time, there will be no "surprise" factor. This game is all about playing straight-on football, and may the better team win.
So how do the Eagles play the better game? Well, there's no doubt that the team is confident with two straight wins, and the players and coaches understand that Washington is going to bring all it has.
So what are the keys to victory? They don't change from one week to the next too much, and you can generally point to statistics like turnovers and efficiency in the red zone and explosive plays and predict a winner based on the team that succeeds most in those categories. Beyond that, though, there are some areas I will focus on during this very critical NFC East game ...
- Getting quarterback
Nick Folesinto his rhythm early seems to have a tremendous impact on his 60-minute numbers. We saw Foles early in the game against Dallas when he was holding the football, when he was reluctant to let his throws rip, and it was a stark difference from just about every other game Foles has played. When he's on his game early, he usually has a big outing. Let's see what the coaching staff orders for Foles and this offense to get into the desired tempo.
- I want to see how the Eagles handle Washington inside linebacker London Fletcher, one of the great ironmen in this league. Can Fletcher keep pace with this offense? He didn't the first time around, and the Eagles ran right at him and won that battle. Fletcher is in his 16th NFL season at age 38. How can the Eagles put him in bad positions?
- There isn't much wrong with Washington's offense. I guess I would be surprised if the Eagles spied quarterback Robert Griffin III as they did with Oakland's Terrelle Pryor, but the Eagles have to be aware of Griffin's mobility, which is far better than it was in Week 1. Tight end Jordan Reed is such a huge threat now, and combined with running back Alfred Morris, the Redskins are very balanced. Really interesting battle here.
- Nothing definitive to report on the injuries. Left tackle
Jason Peters, linebacker Mychael Kendricks and cornerback Bradley Fletcherare all questionable. That's certainly a concern for the Eagles. But at least should Allen Barbreplay left tackle, he's had reps all week. Same with Najee Goodeat linebacker and Roc Carmichaelat cornerback.
- The Eagles are very pleased with the progress made from their young defensive linemen, who have a challenge today. Washington is very good up front.
- What is
Brad Smith's role in this game? I wouldn't be surprised to see him in as the kickoff return man, and I absolutely think he's going to be in kick coverage. It's probably too much to think he will be some kind of factor from the line of scrimmage. Smith is an impressive guy and he said on Friday in our interview that he felt good about his week of work.
- Keep an eye on Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who showed up on the injury list on Friday with an ankle injury. The Redskins can ill-afford to play without Hall.
Riley Cooperkeep up his torrid pace? It's asking a lot and nobody comes into this game thinking Cooper is going to have another ridiculous game, but Cooper is playing with all the confidence in the world and Foles loves giving Cooper a chance to create separation with his body. Just the threat of Cooper has opened up so many things for the offense.
- Washington receiver Leonard Hankerson played in three games against Virginia Tech while at the University of Miami and had 11 catches, 183 yards and 2 touchdowns. Carmichael played against Hankerson enough to know his game -- big, physical and good hands. This is a huge matchup for the Eagles today.
- Thinking out loud ... how much does Chip Kelly gamble today? A win here gets the Eagles to 6-5 heading into the bye week with three of the final five games at home. What will we see today that we haven't seen all season? What is the offensive approach? How are the Redskins going to deal with Philadelphia's offense? What can the Eagles do to take Morris away and put all of the pressure on RGIII? What is the impact of the 10-day layoff on Washington. Both the Dolphins and Bengals, who played the Thursday night before Washington lost to Minnesota, dropped their games after 10-day layoffs (in Miami's case, an 11-day layoff) last week. Does that mean anything?