1. How will scoreboard watching affect the Eagles on Sunday?
Dave Spadaro: I don't expect it to impact the team one bit. The Eagles know they have to beat Washington. That's all the team can control. Will they watch the scoreboard? No doubt they will because, in all honesty, when you're sitting on the bench it's just natural to look up and see what's happening around the rest of the league. But I don't think the players or the coaches are going to be swayed one way or the other. The Eagles want to close out the regular season with a victory. Plain and simple. If the Eagles get some help and Chicago defeats Minnesota, great. If not, the Eagles are 9-7 and feel a bit better having won five of their final six games. What happens on the scoreboard will have no impact at all on the Eagles.
Fran Duffy: Scoreboard watching can't – and shouldn't – affect the Eagles on Sunday. All they can do is win the game against Washington. There's no reason to even look at what Chicago and Minnesota are doing. That's the mindset in that locker room, and I imagine that will carry forward into Sunday's game. Now – I can't say the same for Chicago, who could be playing with an eye on the Rams/49ers score, but something tells me that they will be playing to win as well as they try and earn that first-round bye.
Chris McPherson: Are the players going to pay attention to what's happening with the Chicago/Minnesota game? Yes. It's part of the gameday routine for some players to check out what's going on around the league. Do I expect it to affect the players' performance on the field? Well, if they see the Bears lending a hand, it'll give the Eagles a shot of adrenaline. Sure. Regardless, I think the Eagles will handle their business because, as Brandon Graham said, it would be a "tragedy" otherwise to waste this final game of the regular season when the team is playing at its peak.
2. How different is the Washington offense with Josh Johnson at the helm?
Fran Duffy: They will certainly incorporate more into the quarterback run game, using Johnson's legs, but this is a team that wants to hit you in the mouth with the downhill ground attack featuring Adrian Peterson. That's been their MO this season and I don't think that will change. The difference in this offense this week compared to the last time the two teams played is that they're doing a bit more with both Chris Thompson (a renowned Eagles killer) and Byron Marshall (a former Eagle himself) – two athletic, versatile pass catchers out of the backfield to help create favorable matchups in the middle of the field. That's something to watch for in this game. However, it all starts with Peterson and the use of multiple tight ends to help create voids in the intermediate area of the field for Johnson to attack.
Dave Spadaro: Different from … Mark Sanchez? Well, Johnson has enough arm strength to throw the ball anywhere on the field, whereas Sanchez was limited with what he could do outside the numbers. Johnson has some mobility, so he's similar to Alex Smith in that regard. Playing behind an offensive line that has been decimated with injuries doesn't help anyone. Johnson actually played pretty well at Tennessee on Saturday night until he threw a couple of late-game interceptions. He'll get the ball to slot receivers Jamison Crowder and may take a shot with outside receiver Josh Doctson, but so far what we've seen is a short passing game that is the second option behind a power running game. Adrian Pederson had 26 carries and 119 yards at Tennessee, with a long of 13 yards. It's tough to score a lot of points when the offense isn't gaining "chunk" yards. There isn't much explosiveness in this offense.
Chris McPherson: This isn't Johnson's first time going against the Eagles. He threw three picks in a 33-14 Eagles victory all the way back in 2009. He said after that game that he couldn't believe how the Eagles kept sending pressure on virtually each and every play. It's a much different scheme now as the Eagles will rely on the front four to get after the quarterback. The Eagles had issues with a mobile quarterback last week in Deshaun Watson. Johnson will keep plays alive with his legs, but his arm isn't as live as Houston's gunslinger. As Fran noted, the first priority is stopping the run. The Eagles haven't forgotten about Peterson's 90-yard touchdown run in the first meeting. Yes, the Eagles held Peterson under the century mark, but the run defense has been much better in the last two wins. If Johnson is forced into third-and-long situations on a consistent basis, it will be a long afternoon for Washington.
3. How does the release of D.J. Swearinger change the game plan for the offense?
Dave Spadaro: The release of Swearinger creates a hole in the secondary, no doubt about it. I think the plan is to go after that defensive backfield and if the Eagles can isolate the tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, in one-on-one coverage that's where the ball is going to go. Swearinger, a Pro Bowl alternate, was around the football a lot in Washington's defense. The key on Sunday for the Eagles is to give quarterback Nick Foles time and allow him to zero in on favorable matchups in the passing game. I think this is a "throw" game for the offense. Washington still has a talented and dangerous front seven. It's not an easy team to run against. I think you're going to see an offensive approach planning to throw the football and having a hole at safety with Swearinger gone helps the Eagles create good matchups.
Fran Duffy: The game plan shouldn't change at all. Swearinger had been the primary matchup guy in the Washington secondary against tight ends, and with him gone I expect that they'll slide Deshazor Everett into that role, a hat he wore previously for that defense. Everett isn't as good of a player as Swearinger, so opportunities may be more plentiful, but the Eagles' coaches were going to go into this game doing what they do. They weren't going to be scared of Swearinger in coverage, and his absence shouldn't now force the issue for Nick Foles to make plays in the middle. The tight ends are going to be a big part of the Eagles' offense … and that's going to be the case no matter who is lining up against them in coverage.
Chris McPherson: You can't remove a productive player and think that it won't have an impact on the team. Swearinger had a team-high four interceptions and was second with 14 pass breakups. He also had 64 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. As Fran noted, Everett will play more at safety, but Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky told reporters Thursday that former Eagles rookie free agent Jeremy Reaves will be in the rotation as well. Even with Swearinger, Zach Ertz had nine catches for 83 yards on December 3. Ertz has three games of double-digit receptions in his career against Washington, including a franchise-record 15 back in 2014.