Where: Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia, PA.
When: Sunday 1 PM
The Washington Redskins travel to the city of brotherly love on Sunday to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. Coming off two straight losses, this game is pretty close to a must-win for the Skins; they’re now a half game out of the last wild card spot and another loss puts a serious damper on their playoff aspirations. The Eagles though haven’t been quite so fortunate. A 3-0 start to the season that had fans ready to coronate Carson Wentz as the league’s best quarterback since Jesus Christ has since disintegrated into 5-7. The Redskins can actually take partial credit for this; many Eagles’ opponents have emulated the blitz heavy scheme the Redskins employed to baffle Wentz in just the second Eagles defeat. A hot Redskins offense in a must win game is certainly favored over the reeling (one win in their last six games) Eagles, but it’s professional football, it’s a divisional game against a hostile crowd, and it’s the Redskins – so anything could happen. I lay out some keys to this week’s matchup
The Redskins have one of the best receiving corps in the league. The Eagles have arguably the worst, not to mention a rookie quarterback. Nelson Agholor’s drop problem got so bad he saw a sports psychologist. In last week’s game he recorded 4 catches for 23 yards – commentators lauded him like a toddler who was getting back on a bike for the first time after falling. All of this leads the Eagles to lean heavily on their run game, a strategy that may suit them just fine against a horrendous Redskins run defense.
For the Redskins, Robert Kelley has been a revelation as an effective running back, but it’s no secret the majority of his carries come almost entirely to set up more passes. He and change of pace back Chris Thompson may be in for some tough sledding against a stingy Eagles defensive front, but their ability to chip away for a couple three and four yard gains will be crucial to open up the field for Redskins pass catchers.
The Eagles should return the services of Ryan Matthews and Jordan Matthews, both of whom will be big boosts to a struggling offense. While WR Matthews has his work cut out for him; he’ll likely spend a large chunk of the day lined up across Josh Norman – RB Matthews has to be salivating for his return against a Redskins D line with as many holes as swiss cheese.
For the Redskins, TE Jordan Reed looks to be on track to return from concussion, and LT Trent Williams is set to return from a four game suspension. Williams, a perennial pro-bowler, instantly shores up Kirk Cousins’ blind side and improves the run game (though it should be noted Ty Nsekhe played well in his absence). Jordan Reed is the Redskins most dangerous offensive weapon. A matchup nightmare, his healthy is crucial to the Redskins late season playoff run.
Eagles first year coach Doug Pederson called out his team for lack of effort last week. A home game against a divisional rival might provide that spark the team has lacked lately.
The Redskins finished last year on a four-game winning streak, in large part due to brilliant performances from Kirk Cousins. He’s playing this year under the franchise tag, and his strained relationship with GM Scot Mccloughan is only sort of kept under wraps. Cousins has had an excellent year, but to earn a long-term deal he’s going to have to look a lot more like the Captain Kirk who closed at least season than the one who threw a bad interception to close out last week’s loss to the Cardinals. With receivers as good as he has, there’s nowhere for Cousins to deflect the blame for bad play.
Desean Jackson returns to Philly on Sunday as an impending free agent amidst speculation that the Eagles intend to pursue him aggressively this offseason. Jackson played his first six years in Philadelphia and has complained about his role in the Redskins offense.
Captain Kirk gets back on track. A near perfect performance from Cousins – 321 yards, 3 touchdowns – proves too much for the Eagles, who continue to flounder on offense. Desean Jackson catches a third quarter bomb to a chorus of boos, but meets secretly with Wentz after the game to play catch. Jamison Crowder continues to impress with a 23 yard touchdown catch. The Skins give up 147 rushing yards but only 146 passing yards; Norman records an interception and an excessive celebration penalty; Ryan Kerrigan gets two more sacks. This game is never really close and (bonus prediction!) the Saints beat the Bucs, vaulting the Redskins back into the last playoff spot.