Lawlor: Game Preview vs. Washington

The 2018 regular season has been one of the wildest, weirdest seasons I can remember.

It seems fitting that the final Sunday has a chance to be a crazy day of football. You know the deal. The Eagles can secure a playoff spot if they beat Washington and the Vikings lose. A lot of focus is on the Vikings because the Eagles are hot and playing a banged-up Redskins team.

Warning: Don't overlook this game.

The Redskins have proven to be troublesome to the Eagles in recent years. The 9-6 Eagles took on a 3-11 Redskins team and lost a painful game back in 2014. That kept the Eagles out of the playoffs. Washington then swept the series in both 2015 and 2016. The Eagles have won three games against Washington in a row since then, but the Redskins are not to be taken lightly.

Washington got off to a 6-3 start but has gone ice cold since then. The Redskins are just 1-5 since the high point of their season. Injuries have been overwhelming. The Redskins have lost multiple quarterbacks and now have journeyman Josh Johnson as their starter. Johnson is 32 years old and had five career starts before this season.

Johnson hasn't thrown more than 25 passes in a game this year. He hasn't thrown for 200 yards. When you watch Washington play with him, it feels like it is trying not to lose as much as it is trying to win. Be safe. Don't take chances.

This formula helped the Redskins beat the Jaguars two weeks ago. Washington had a late lead over the Titans last week before losing that game. They aren't as helpless as you might think.

The offense is struggling. Washington hasn't scored more than 16 points once in the last four games. The Redskins aren't getting many big plays and they can't sustain drives consistently.

The Eagles are very different right now. They are coming off consecutive games of 30 or more points for the first time all season. The offense is playing better now than at any time this season. The team has won four out of the last five games and is peaking at the right time of the year.

Nick Foles is coming off the best regular-season game of his career. He threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns last week. That was in a must-win game against a talented defense. Houston shut down the Eagles' run game so Foles had to carry the offense last week.

The Eagles should be able to run the ball better in Washington. The Redskins are giving up an average of 146 yards on the ground over the past eight games. The Eagles ran for 130 on them in the first meeting of the year earlier this month. Josh Adams led the way with 85 yards in that game. Adams has been shut down the past two weeks, so I'm sure he's ready to have another big game.

While Foles isn't likely to throw for 400 yards again, he will need to make his presence felt. Foles has brought the big play to the Eagles' offense and the team needs that. Washington has a talented front seven. It isn't easy to sustain drives on the Redskins. Chunk plays can make a huge difference.

Josh Norman did a solid job of covering Alshon Jeffery in the first meeting. Jeffery has been red-hot with Foles at quarterback, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Foles will still throw his way, but this also could mean more opportunities for Nelson Agholor and Golden Tate.

The Eagles' offensive line has been playing lights out in recent weeks and it will need to keep that going in this game. Ryan Kerrigan can wreck a game, but he'll face Lane Johnson most of the time and Johnson just erased J.J. Watt. If the line can pass protect and open holes for the run game, Sunday could be a long day for the Redskins' defense.

The Eagles' defense will be focusing on the Redskins' ground game. With Johnson as the quarterback, Washington is running the ball an average of 30 times per game. Some of those are designed quarterback runs. Washington is trying to find ways to be creative while still careful.

Adrian Peterson had a weird game against the Eagles in the first meeting. He ran for 98 yards on just nine carries. One of those was a 90-yard touchdown run. The Eagles shut him down the rest of the game. If the Eagles can repeat that performance, the Redskins' offense could really struggle.

Johnson is not as comfortable as a pocket passer. He looks much better on the move. The Eagles' secondary has had its hands full in recent weeks, so I'm sure it would love a game where the opponent didn't throw as much. It also helps not facing wide receivers like Brandin Cooks or DeAndre Hopkins.

Field position will be critical in this game. The Eagles must make Washington drive the long field. This means special teams must pin Washington deep and the Eagles' offense must avoid turnovers. The Redskins don't have many playmakers on offense. Do not help them out.

One potential concern for the Eagles is focus. Scoreboard watching was the hot topic among the media this week. Will the Bears beat the Vikings? Minnesota has become a rival for the Eagles in recent years, so there is a lot of attention on that game.

Players were also asked what happens if the Eagles get into the playoffs. Who would start at quarterback? The Eagles would be red hot and you wonder if the team could make another Super Bowl run.

None of this matters unless the Eagles win on Sunday. This is a game they must win, and they should win. The problem is that the NFL is an unpredictable league and crazy things happen on a regular basis.

Washington could spoil the regular-season finale if the Eagles do too much scoreboard watching or find themselves thinking about the playoffs. The Redskins can't go to the playoffs, so Sunday is their Super Bowl. If there is a time for them to take chances and play loose, Sunday is it.

I can't imagine guys like Jason Peters, Malcolm Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Darren Sproles, Chris Long, and Nick Foles overlooking the Redskins. I expect the Eagles to win this game.

As for the Vikings, all we can do is become Bears fans for a day and hope the guys from the Windy City come up big.

It sure would be fun to see this season extended into the playoffs.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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