The Eagles and Redskins will face off for the second time this season on Sunday in Philadelphia. Take a look at some of the key players to watch.
There's no way to downplay what's happened to the Eagles in the last three weeks. After a big win over Atlanta at home, the Eagles were in the thick of the playoff race with a 5-4 record. They had just knocked off the hottest offense in the NFL, and while everyone knew the next stretch was going to be tough, the Eagles knew they had to start playing their best football.
Three weeks later, things seem very different. The loss in Seattle is understandable. CenturyLink Field is arguably the toughest road environment in the NFL, and the Seahawks might be the most complete team in the NFL. But the Eagles had a chance to rebound in a big way by winning against a slumping Packers team and beating a seemingly lifeless Bengals squad.
As we all know by now, things didn't go as planned.
Yet, once again, the Eagles have a chance to get the bad taste out of their mouth, and this time there's divisional bragging rights on the line.
The Washington Redskins have issued some especially stinging losses to the Eagles during the past three seasons. In 2014, the Eagles traveled to Landover, Maryland for a Week 16 battle with a hapless Washington team, but the Redskins were the better team that night, coming away with a 27-24 win which knocked the Eagles out of the playoff race. At the end of the 2015 season, the Eagles still had the slimmest of playoff hopes at 6-8, but Washington came to Philadelphia and won 38-24 to clinch the NFC East title.
This time around, Washington is ahead of the Eagles in the NFC standings, but both teams are fighting to keep hope alive. The Eagles can deal Washington a painful loss to keep them out of the playoffs, and regaining some of this season's earlier homefield advantage in the process wouldn't hurt matters.
Washington enters the game with one of the most productive offenses in the NFL in terms of yardage. The Eagles' defense, meanwhile, is looking to get back on track and prove that the first nine weeks of the season were no fluke, and that last week's game in Cincinnati was merely an exception rather than a trend.
The final four-game stretch for the Eagles features three divisional home games, and no matter what the playoff scenario may be, Sunday's game is the first step toward finishing the season the right way. Here's the preview …
- Alex Smith
Last Time They Met
Redskins 27, Eagles 20
*October 16, 2016 - FedEx Field *
The Eagles met with Washington for the first time in the 2016 season back in Week 6. The Redskins got on the board first with a Kirk Cousins 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jamison Crowder at the end of the first quarter, and extended their lead in the second quarter with a 13-yard touchdown reception by tight end Vernon Davis. The Eagles scored two non-offensive touchdowns to tie the game. Rookie Wendell Smallwood returned a kickoff 86 yards, and safety Malcolm Jenkins picked off Cousins and took it back 64 yards to tie the game. However, running back Matt Jones scored on a 1-yard carry to give Washington the lead again just before halftime. Washington dominated the time of possession by churning out 230 yards on the ground and never allowed the game to be tied again in a 27-20 win.
- Frankie Stokes
When The Eagles Have The Ball**
Sunday has the makings of a get-right game for the Eagles' offense.
And it sure could use one.
The Eagles have not scored more than 15 points in the past three games. This comes after scoring at least 20 in each of the first nine outings.
Washington has allowed 31 points in each of the past two weeks, both losses. The Redskins have struggled defensively most of the year, especially when it comes to third down (last in the league) and red zone (30th out of the 32 teams).
The first time these two teams met back in Week 6 was the beginning of Lane Johnson's 10-game suspension. Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai made his NFL debut and the Redskins took advantage early on. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had two of Washington's five sacks on the afternoon, but it wasn't all on Vaitai. It's a shame that Vaitai is likely out again with a knee injury because he has settled in nicely since that first game. Allen Barbre has started in Vaitai's place with Johnson still suspended for two more games.
The Eagles managed to stay in the game despite generating only 239 total yards of offense, which is tied for a season low, and succeeding on four out of 12 third-down opportunities. In fact, the Eagles scored only six points on offense. The other 14 points were return touchdowns.
The injury situation is one to watch this week with the Redskins' defense, but Kerrigan continues to harass quarterbacks. With 10 sacks thus far, Kerrigan is just a half-sack behind Atlanta's Vic Beasley for the NFC lead. Kerrigan isn't alone. Trent Murphy has eight sacks as a reserve rusher.
At inside linebacker, Will Compton and Mason Foster combined for 10 tackles in that Week 6 matchup and kept tight end Zach Ertz, who previously had monster games against Washington, in check.
Cornerback Josh Norman was the Redskins' big free agent acquisition in the offseason, and despite Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant's postgame comments after the Dallas win on Thanksgiving - "Washington needs to get their money back from Josh Norman." - he has solidified a secondary dismantled by injury.
- Chris McPherson
When The Redskins Have The Ball
This season, Washington's offense has certainly found its rhythm. With quarterback Kirk Cousins at the helm and a number of suitable targets, the team's passing game exploded. Currently ranked second in the league with 309.1 yards in the air per game, Cousins has thrown for the third-most yards (3,811) and third-most completions (320) of all quarterbacks. He currently has a 99.6 passer rating and a 67.5 completion percentage.
Additionally, the Redskins have four players with over 600 receiving yards, making them even harder to defend. To this point, Jamison Crowder has been the team's leading receiver with 767 yards, but Pierre Garçon (714 yards), DeSean Jackson (644 yards) and Jordan Reed (630 yards) are all close behind. The four players have combined for 17 touchdowns in 2016 and accounted for over 70 percent of Washington's receiving yards.
The Redskins' run game has been successful as well, racking up on average 109.5 rushing yards each week. The Eagles will need to prepare for a different No. 1 running back than they faced back in Week 6 though. Washington moved from Matt Jones after its game against Detroit, giving the bulk of the carries to rookie Rob Kelley. On the season, he's registered 524 yards on 112 carries (4.7 average) and four rushing touchdowns. Three of those scores came against the Green Bay Packers in a game he accumulated 137 yards on the ground. While not the starter the last time his team faced Philadelphia, Kelley did have five touches in that game, one of which was good for a 45-yard gain.
Along the offensive line, the Redskins will also get All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams back from suspension. He missed the team's last four matchups for violating the NFL's Substance Abuse Policy. Coming off two losses, having the veteran back in the lineup could provide a boost for Washington.
In terms of Philadelphia's defense, the main goal will be getting back on track. The group has struggled as of late, especially on third down. This season, the Eagles have allowed 131 passing plays for an average of 7.73 yards per play and 22 rushing plays for an average of 6.64 yards per play on third down.
Against the pass, the Eagles' defense allows 244.5 yards per game, which ranks 13th in the NFL. Against the run, Philadelphia ranks 16th in the league, with opposing teams picking up 100.9 rushing yards on average. The group is giving up 20.4 points an outing. But the Eagles have dominated on home turf, allowing only an average of 13 points per game. They'll look to get back to their strong play when they take the field in Philadelphia this Sunday.
- Julie Bacanskas
1. CB Leodis McKelvin vs. WR DeSean Jackson - The Redskins' deep threat had four catches for 55 yards in the first meeting. The Eagles have struggled of late with explosive plays (20 yards) allowed. And there were eight total (run and pass) in the first meeting.
2. DT Bennie Logan vs. G Shawn Lauvao - The Redskins' starting guard has a groin injury, so his availability is not 100 percent certain. Lauvao allowed a critical sack that resulted in a fumble last week against Arizona. Bennie Logan was the Eagles' best defender back in Week 6. But he left the game with a groin injury of his own.
3. TE Zach Ertz vs. S Duke Ihenacho - In 2014, Zach Ertz had 15 catches, a single-game franchise record, against Washington. Last season, he nearly matched that total with 13 receptions. Ertz had just one catch for 22 yards back in Week 6, so he's looking to revert back to his previous form.
4. G Brandon Brooks vs. DE Chris Baker - Chris Baker is the Redskins' best defensive lineman, and one who Eagles fans don't mind getting on after his cheap shot on Nick Foles in 2014. Baker will move up and down the line, but the showdown with Brandon Brooks will be one to watch as the Eagles need to establish the run game with the return of Ryan Mathews.
- Chris McPherson
Trends To Watch
13.0: Even with allowing 27 points to Green Bay in late November, the Eagles' defense has held opponents with just 13.0 points per game at home this season. They've held opponents to 15 points or fewer in four out of five home games.
31.0: Washington has struggled somewhat on the road this season, compiling a 2-3-1 record. It has been on the road the last two weeks coming into Sunday's game, falling to both Dallas and Arizona while allowing 31.0 points per game.
14: Washington's turnover differential on the season is zero, but its 14 takeaways rank tied for 18th in the NFL. Last week against Arizona, quarterback Kirk Cousins turned the ball over twice, including an interception deep in Arizona territory with under a minute to play.
84.5: One of the biggest keys for the Eagles will be slowing down DeSean Jackson, who has averaged 84.5 yards per game against the Eagles since joining Washington in 2014, his highest career average against any NFC East team.
- Alex Smith