It could be a wet one in Landover, Md., on Sunday.
Forecasts are calling for rain, which means we might see a steady dose of the Eagles' running backs for a fourth consecutive week when they square up against the Redskins at FedEx Field. But whichever way the Eagles decide to try to move the ball, they had better do it – once again, a loss would effectively end all hopes the Eagles have at reaching the postseason, barring a miracle.
Another aspect that could hurt Philadelphia's passing game could be the absence of wide receivers Hank Baskett (knee) and Kevin Curtis (quad) in practice this week. Baskett is out and Curtis is listed as doubtful for the 4:15 kickoff on Sunday. This means that Reggie Brown, who has been a healthy scratch for two consecutive weeks, could see his first significant action in a while.
But there could be a major hitch for the running game, as well. Guard Todd Herremans is listed as questionable after suffering an ankle injury in practice on Thursday. Should he not be able to go, rookie Mike McGlynn will start at guard, joining Nick Cole for a once highly unlikely twosome between the tackles.
With six healthy receivers, the Eagles opted to dress only five in order to streamline the rotation and to get short-yardage back Kyle Eckel on the field.
FROM THE COACH'S DESK
For three consecutive weeks, the Eagles haven't had too many scares from their opponents. Not surprisingly, then, they're doing much better on third-down conversions.
After battling with the ratio during the first 11 games of the season, the Eagles have been nothing short of spectacular since – converting 33 of 50 chances on third down while limiting opponents to just nine of 33.
So, if there's one stat to explain the Eagles' three-game winning streak, it's probably that.
"If you get one third down on any drive it jacks your chance of scoring way up, so you need to get that first one if there is one," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "Now, there are games where you have very few third downs because you are moving the ball on first and second so you don't get into those (third-down situations), and those are very good games as well."
Mornhinweg wouldn't go into specifics about exactly what his offense is doing to improve its performance; and perhaps he couldn't. He did offer up the suggestion that the running backs and tight ends are making more plays, in conjunction with the wide receivers. The presence of burly Kyle Eckel on third-and-short has helped, as well.
The Eagles are converting 66 percent of chances throughout the past three weeks, as opposed to just 42.13 percent for the entire season. The NFL leader in the category, Indianapolis, converts 49.15 percent of its opportunities.
"We weren't very good (early in the season) and then we got a little bit better and then we've been real good lately. And again, that has no effect on that next game. We have to do it again," Mornhinweg said. "Yeah, we've kept them a little bit more manageable, however, we've had some long ones as well, so I think that we are just doing a little bit better of a job in the third down situation and that's a huge situation that happens throughout a ball game."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
TE L.J. Smith
Caught three passes for 26 yards in the first meeting between the two teams this season. With Hank Baskett out and Kevin Curtis listed as doubtful, the Eagles will need Smith to step up and take advantage of the man coverage by the Redskins. However, the 'Skins have a good trio of linebacker with Marcus Washington on the strong side and London Fletcher in the middle.
LB Chris Gocong
Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley caught eight passes for 109 yards and the go-ahead score. Gocong has played his best football of late in both the run and pass game, but this will be a true test. Not only will Gocong have to funnel Clinton Portis into the middle, but make sure that Cooley doesn't break loose. The last tight end to do damage vs. the Eagles; Kevin Boss back in Week 10.
WR Santana Moss
The Redskins' biggest threat in the pass game is Moss. In the first meeting, Jim Johnson gameplanned to take Moss out of the game. It worked, but at the cost of allowing 203 yards on the ground. Moss in second on the team in reception with 68 and touchdowns with six. The Redskins like to get the ball out to Moss quickly and let him fly. He has 16 plays of 20-or-more yards this season.
S LaRon Landry
The budding star was utilized in stopping the run in the first meeting and he helped the Redskins hold Brian Westbrook to 33 rushing yards. Just two weeks ago against Baltimore, Landry showed the difference-maker that he can be. He intercepted a pass and forced a turnover against the Ravens. Donovan McNabb has only thrown one pick in the last three games, but he must be aware of Landry at all times.
KEEP AN EYE ON ... DE Trent Cole
The Redskins were successful in running wide to Cole's side in the first meeting thanks to Pro Bowl tackle Chris Samuels. Even Cole admitted that Samuels is one of the toughest tackles to go against. Samuels is out for the year with a triceps injury. Today, Cole will battle second-year tackle Stephon Heyer. Cole has played amazing of late, especially in wearing down Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas last Monday night against the Browns. After the first meeting, Cole will be looking for revenge.